During the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, Meriwether Lewis wrote on 20 July 1805, "I saw a black woodpecker (or crow) today¿ it is a distinct species of woodpecker; it has a long tail and flys a good deal like the jay bird" (sic, Thwaites 1905). Subsequent observations of flight and vocalization reminded him of the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) he knew from his home in Virginia. A few years later the ornithologist Alexander Wilson, working with skins that Lewis and Clark's expedition had provided, described this species in his American Ornithology and named it Lewis's Woodpecker in honor of his fellow naturalist (Snow 1941, Farrand 1992, Mearns and Mearns 1992).
Since then, Lewis's Woodpecker has continued to intrigue ornithologists. Using slow wing-beats, it frequently engages in prolonged glides and complex aerial maneuvers in pursuit of flying insects. It is opportunistic in its feeding habits, eating mostly insects in summer but switching in winter to acorns and other nuts, which it often stores in bark crevices for later consumption. Aggressive encounters, sometimes over stored food, are well documented between Lewis's Woodpecker and its congeners the Acorn Woodpecker (M. formicivorus) and the Red-headed Woodpecker.
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