Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flickers and Other Cavity Nesting Birds at the Beaver Pond

The Yellow-shafted Flicker nests at the beaver pond nearly every year
There is no better place for flickers and other cavity nesting birds to look for homes than at a beaver pond.  As ponds are created and/or increase in size, stands of trees can become flooded out and die, thus leaving a great amount of potential bird housing.
A female Hairy Woodpecker feeds prepares to feed her nestlings over the pond
The House Wrens use a nest hole that was originally excavated by a downy woodpecker
The holes that Woodpeckers chisel out and use, may be reused several times by other bird species- including species that otherwise lack the ability to excavate cavities. Wood Duck, Great- created Flycatcher, Screech Owl and Bluebird all fit into that category. To a large degree these species and many other depend upon the presence of woodpeckers in their environment in order to reproduce.
A White-breasted Nuthatch looks for a suitable nest cavity at the beaver pond
Like the other woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can make their own nest holes
With such small bills, you wouldn't think that Black-capped Chickadees would be very good at digging out their own nest holes, but they often manage it. Sometimes they select a place where a woodpecker had only begun to chisel out an entrance way. If the wood is somewhat decayed and therefore sufficiently soft, the chickadee pair will work as a team to dig out a proper chamber. One at a time they come out with beak-fulls of saw dust, which they release into the air as they fly from the site. Such an operation can take several days.

Chickadees excavate their nest hole a beakful at a time
Nesting over the water gives added protection from land bound predators
Most of our resident woodpecker species will sometimes reuse old nests and a few of them, including the Flicker will accept man-made nest boxes. A few years ago I watched a male Red-bellied Woodpecker remove a Red Squirrels nest from a hole that was originally made by a woodpecker. The Red bellied Woodpecker would be the 3rd known owner of this apartment. Squirrels commonly make use of woodpecker holes and depend upon them as much as other non-excavating cavity nesting birds.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker removes bedding material left by a Red Squirrel family
The male Flicker excavtes a new nest hole in a dead American Elm tree
Of our woodpeckers, the Flicker is most likely to be seen on the ground foraging for ants
Currently at the beaver pond we have 5 species of cavity nesting birds in residence. The Flickers are now at the stage of feeding nestlings. Both parents take part in feeding, but as the young grow, the male's role will become more dominant as food provider – and he will be seen making more trips to the nest.

Mother Flicker has many insistent mouths to feed
Young Flickers fan out their wings - revealing their yellow shafted feathers
Woodpecker nestlings are remarkably boisterous, and their loud begging calls often make locating their nest trees a simple task.  The fact they are so loud is somewhat of a puzzle  Obviously, it encourages their parents to hurry up with the food deliveries, but one would think that it would also alert nest predators that there is a tree full of tasty woodpecker babies just waiting to be pilfered. Somehow though, woodpeckers seem to enjoy more breeding success than birds which use open nests - so having loud babies wouldn't seem to be causing an inordinate amount of harm.

The Pileated Woodpecker makes a nest hole big enough for Wood Ducks to use
The male Wood Duck goes house hunting in the Pileated Woodpecker's domain
Flickers as very young nestlings, produce a kind of buzzing sound upon approach. It is thought that this buzzing, which sounds like a swarm of bees, is meant to keep predators like Red Squirrels away from the nest. 
The male Eastern Bluebird often nests in woodpecker holes located at beaver ponds

1 comment:

  1. I just now saw the first beaver pond flicker leave the nest. It was an impressive maiden flight - right over 2 ponds and landing on a dam. The 2nd flicker nestling is now in position at the rim of the nest hole - ready to go.