Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version


Document Type



Gates, "Lewis' Woodpeckers in Western Nebraska," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 1981) 49(2).


Copyright 1981, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


On 30 August 1980, Dr. Randy Lawson from Chadron State College reported to me that Lewis' Woodpeckers (Asyndesmus lewis) were in a dead elm tree about eight miles south of Chadron on the west side of U.S. Highway 385. We observed them for about an hour, and in the afternoon, Marj Blinde and I watched them for about an hour more. They numbered at least 12 and flew from the elm to fence posts and telephone posts nearby.

They performed the fly catching actions for which they are noted, but it seemed the attraction of this particular location was a chokecherry thicket about 100 yards west of the tree. The tree stood at the edge of another chokecherry thicket, but every time we saw them fly to chokecherries, they went to the farther one.

We sat on a hill close to them and could see them pick the cherries, some of which they swallowed, some they carried back to the dead elm, and in a few instances, we could see them go to fence posts, where they seemed to examine all the cracks and later they went back to the tree with nothing in their beaks.

Examination of the posts disclosed in one post five cherries in cracks that measured just one cherry wide. In two cracks were two cherries, and a single one was in another.

Examination of every post for a distance of about a half mile yielded very few cherries. However, seeds were on tops of many and on the ground by them. One post had a bright green scarab beetle mashed in a crack, possibly put there by a Woodpecker.

An interesting further fact was that many of the seeds on the ground had been opened by something, probably by mice, judging by what appeared to be teeth marks, and the contents were gone.