We investigated patterns of seasonal variation in body weight in six populations of five resident species of temperate-zone woodpeckers: Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), Red-bellied Woodpecker (M. carolinus), Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), Downy Woodpecker (P. pubescens), and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). After controlling for time of day and overall body size, annual variation in body weight was small and generally not statistically significant. However, analysis revealed evidence of significant “winter fattening,” comparable in magnitude to other temperate-zone resident species, in three of the species. The degree of winter fattening did not correlate with either the size of the acorn crop (for the Acorn Woodpecker) or latitude, two variables potentially related to predictability of food resources. However, the smaller species exhibited significantly greater winter fattening than the larger species, as predicted by the hypothesis that energy storage should be more important for small-bodied species. Furthermore, the food-storing Acorn Woodpecker exhibited considerably less winter fattening than the nonfood-storing species, supporting the hypothesis that food storage provides an ecological alternative to winter fattening.
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