Photo: Noble beauty is a bird at risk

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Lewis's woodpecker will be gone forever if significant conservation actions aren't taken to save it.

There are woodpeckers, and then there is the Lewis’s woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis), a unique beauty named named after Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Audubon describes the species as "one of our oddest woodpeckers," and not only because it comes in shades of pink and silver. "Although it climbs trees in woodpecker style, it feeds mostly by catching insects in acrobatic flight: swooping out from a perch like a flycatcher, circling high in the air like a swallow. Wide rounded wings give it a more buoyant flight than most woodpeckers." In cooler months, they break up nuts and acorns with their bills and store them in crevices in the trees. They also mate for life.

Sadly, this beautiful creature, found west of the Great Plains, is at risk of extinction. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology notes that their populations have dropped by about 82 percent between 1966 and 2015, with a breeding population of around 70,000 left. "The species rates a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species," Cornell reports. "Lewis's Woodpecker is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats.”

Thank you to photographer Mark Heatherington for sharing this beautiful photo with us.

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