Power struggles are messy affairs, even in the world of acorn woodpeckers. Dozens of birds, grouped in coalitions, can fight for days on end, while spectators fly in from nearly two miles away to witness a battle for the right to breed. And word spreads fast—when a bird’s death creates a vacancy in prime territory, the battle to fill it breaks out within minutes, and faraway onlookers can arrive in less than an hour.

These are some of the findings from a study, published in Current Biology, that followed a California population of these unusual, socially complex birds. The immense and arduous effort required to win a key place within a territory’s pecking order is matched by an equally rare prize: a breeding position within a communal group of birds that raises offspring together and shares valuable stores of acorns that help them tough out food shortages. But the toll of a battle can be great.

More in category

The perfect romantic getaway to Paris
September 16, 2020A Luxury Travel Blog
The perfect romantic getaway to Paris
8 travel-related games and crafts
September 19, 2020A Luxury Travel Blog
8 travel-related games and crafts
How to Road Trip Around Oahu
September 18, 2020Nomadic Matt Blog
How to Road Trip Around Oahu
Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach, Florida
September 18, 2020Atlas Obscura
Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach, Florida
The Jade Coast in Itoigawa, Japan
September 18, 2020Atlas Obscura
The Jade Coast in Itoigawa, Japan
A ‘Forgotten Holocaust’ Is Missing From Indian Food Stories
September 17, 2020Atlas Obscura
A ‘Forgotten Holocaust’ Is Missing From Indian Food Stories
A Rare Day-by-Day Document of Life Aboard a Slave Ship
September 17, 2020Atlas Obscura
A Rare Day-by-Day Document of Life Aboard a Slave Ship
Monuments That Celebrate Communal Struggles, Not Flawed Men
September 17, 2020The NY Times
Monuments That Celebrate Communal Struggles, Not Flawed Men
Site of the Dongan Oak in Brooklyn, New York
September 17, 2020Atlas Obscura
Site of the Dongan Oak in Brooklyn, New York
Fall’s Almost Here. Can We Still Go Apple Picking?
September 17, 2020The NY Times
Fall’s Almost Here. Can We Still Go Apple Picking?
The countries that ceased to exist
September 16, 2020CNN
The countries that ceased to exist
Vicus Caprarius in Rome, Italy
September 16, 2020Atlas Obscura
Vicus Caprarius in Rome, Italy
Terminillo's Sword in the Stone in Rieti, Italy
September 16, 2020Atlas Obscura
Terminillo's Sword in the Stone in Rieti, Italy
The Cobweb Picture in Chester, England
September 16, 2020Atlas Obscura
The Cobweb Picture in Chester, England
Why passenger jets could soon be flying in formation
September 15, 2020CNN
Why passenger jets could soon be flying in formation
How Gibraltar Became Europe’s Pandemic Wedding Hot Spot
September 15, 2020The NY Times
How Gibraltar Became Europe’s Pandemic Wedding Hot Spot
The Detective on the Case of the Perfect Hot Tamale
September 14, 2020Atlas Obscura
The Detective on the Case of the Perfect Hot Tamale
Stockholm University Arboretum in Stockholm, Sweden
September 14, 2020Atlas Obscura
Stockholm University Arboretum in Stockholm, Sweden
Vivid Street Scenes From Salvador, Brazil
September 14, 2020The NY Times
Vivid Street Scenes From Salvador, Brazil
For Hotels, Cleaning Is Key. But Cleaners Say Their Jobs Are Under Assault.
September 11, 2020The NY Times
For Hotels, Cleaning Is Key. But Cleaners Say Their Jobs Are Under Assault.
Golf in a Remote and Breathtaking Part of the World
September 11, 2020The NY Times
Golf in a Remote and Breathtaking Part of the World