woodpeckers prefer to nest and roost in open areas. Farmyards, field edges, and
timber stands that have been treated with herbicides or burned are preferred
habitats. Redheads are attracted to areas with many dead snags and lush
herbaceous ground cover, but not to woods with closed canopies. They are found
throughout the East and along wooded streams of the prairie to eastern Colorado
and Wyoming. Competition for nesting space is often intensive where starlings
are abundant (Bailey and Niedrach 1965).
Nest: Red-headed woodpeckers most commonly excavate holes in the trunks of dead trees. Holes are excavated from 24 to 65 feet above the ground and the 1.8-inch diameter entrance hole often faces south or west (Reller 1972). These woodpeckers may excavate new holes each year, or use old nest sites.
Food: Red-headed woodpeckers consume about half animal matter (mostly insects) and half vegetable matter. Occasionally the eggs or the young of other birds are destroyed. Although a wide variety of vegetable matter is consumed, acorns from pin oak comprise a large portion of the winter diet. Nuts are stored whole or in pieces in cracks and crevices in bark, and in cavities which are sealed with bits of bark when full. These birds also store insects (especially grasshoppers) along with acorns in cavities and crevices (Kilham 1963, Bent 1939).
|Habitat: The acorn woodpecker is a
common resident of mixed oak-pine woodland and adjacent open grassland from
Oregon along the Pacific Coast to the southwestern United States.
Nest: Acorn woodpeckers are communal nesters, and the young are fed by the entire group (Wetmore 1964). They usually excavate holes in ponderosa pine, but live and dead oaks of various species, sycamore, cottonwood, and willow are also used for nests. Their old holes are important for secondary cavity nesters such as small owls, purple martins, violet-green swallows, nuthatches, house wrens, and kestrels (Bent 1939).
Food: As the name implies, acorn woodpeckers feed mostly on acorns which are stored in holes drilled in communal trees. Sap from several species of oaks also is consumed from midwinter to summer (MacRoberts and MacRoberts 1972). About 25 percent of the diet is insects, including grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and flies (Bent 1939). Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are eaten when they are available.
|Habitat: Open or parklike ponderosa
pine forest is probably the major breeding habitat of the Lewis' woodpecker.
These woodpeckers also nest in burned over stands of Douglas-fir, mixed
conifer, pinyon-juniper, riparian, and oak woodlands (Bock 1970).
Nest: The Lewis' woodpecker generally excavates its own nest cavity, but will use natural cavities or holes excavated in previous years. Bock (1970) summarized the following nest data: height range 5 to 170 feet; 47 nests in dead stubs and 17 in live trees; 29 nests in conifers, 31 in cottonwood and sycamore, 6 in oaks, 2 in power poles, 1 in juniper, and 1 in catalpa. At Boca Reservoir, California, 10 of 11 nests were in dead ponderosa pines, and the other was in a hollow section of a living pine.
Food: Insects, including flies, ladybird beetle larvae, tent caterpillars, ants, and mayflies, were the primary food of Lewis' woodpeckers during spring and summer (Bock 1970). Fruits and berries were the most frequently used food in late summer and fall, while winter food consisted mostly of acorns and almonds gathered and stored in crevices of dead trees, power poles, and oak bark. Hadow (1973) reported that, on snowy days when insects were inactive, Lewis' woodpeckers in southeastern Colorado spent 99 percent of their feeding time feeding from caches of acorns and corn kernels.
yellow-bellied sapsucker (sometimes called red-naped) is most abundant along
streams in mixed hardwood-conifer forests. It is also found in ponderosa pine,
aspen, mixed conifer, lodgepole pine, and in mixed stands of
Nest: Yellow-bellied sapsuckers usually nest in cavities in snags or live trees with rotten heartwood. Aspen seems to be the preferred species (Howell 1952, Lawrence 1967, Kilham 1971), but nests have also been found in ponderosa pine, birch, elm, butternut, cottonwood, alder, willow, beech, maple, and fir (Bent 1939). Kilham (1971) noted that nest trees were often infected by the Fomes fungus. Nest height varies from 5 to 70 feet above ground. The same nest tree is often used repeatedly, but a new cavity is excavated each year.
Food: Sap is eaten throughout the year by the yellow-bellied sapsucker, but the amount taken and tree species used vary seasonally (Tate 1973, Lawrence 1967). The birds regularly tap one or two "favorite trees" in their area; Oliver (1970) found that these tend to be trees which have been wounded (by logging, porcupines, etc.). About 80 percent of the insect food taken consists of ants (McAtee 1911). Other insects in their diet include beetles and wasps, but none of the woodboring larvae. The fruits of dogwood, black alder, Virginia creeper, and blackberries are included in the small portion of vegetable matter eaten (Bent 1939).
sapsucker prefers mixed conifer-hardwood forests of the Rocky Mountain region
but also inhabits the subalpine spruce-firlodgepole zone, and ponderosa pine,
Douglas-fir, and aspen forests.
Nest: The choice of tree species for nesting seems to differ between regions. Bent (1939), Packard (1945), Bailey and Niedrach (1965), Burleigh (1972), and Jackman (1975) reported Williamson's sapsuckers nesting primarily in conifers. Other authors (Rasmussen 1941, Hubbard 1965, Tatschl 1967, Ligon 1961, Crockett and Hadow 1975) found a preference for aspens. Of 57 nests in Colorado examined by Crockett and Hadow (1975), 49 were in aspens, especially aspens infected by the Fomes fungus; where pines were used, there were no suitable aspen sites nearby. In Arizona, we found 17 nests in aspen snags, 3 in aspens with dead tops, and 1 nest in a live aspen.
Food: The diet of Williamson's sapsuckers is made up of 87 percent animal and 13 percent vegetable material (Bent 1939). Most of the animal food taken is ants, and most of the vegetable material is cambium. Like the yellow-bellied sapsucker, the Williamson's sapsucker feeds on sap, especially in spring, and picks out "favorite trees" which it taps regularly (Oliver 1970).
|Habitat: Hairy woodpeckers are
residents of nearly all types of forest from central Canada
Nest: Live trees in open woodlands are preferred nesting sites of hairy woodpeckers. This species makes a nest entrance that exactly fits its head and body size (1.6 to 1.8 inches). Because this size also seems very convenient for starlings and flying squirrels, hairy woodpeckers are often troubled with invasions (Kilham 1968a, Lawrence 1967). Hairy woodpeckers will often excavate the entrance so it is camouflaged or hidden, such as on the underside of a limb. Nest heights vary from 15 to 45 feet but are commonly approximately 35 feet high. Hairies will often use the same hole year after year.
Food: Hairy woodpeckers prefer to feed on insects on dead and diseased trees (Bent 1939). Approximately 80 percent of the diet is animal matter; adult and larval beetles, ants, and caterpillars are the most frequently eaten items. The primarily insect diet is supplemented with fruit, corn, acorns, hazelnuts, and many other species (Beat 1911, Bent 1939). The males forage in trees away from the nest for large insects (usually borers) located deep in the wood. Females forage close to the nest on the surface of trees, shrubs, or on the ground for small prey (Kilham 1968a).
|Habitat: Downy woodpeckers inhabit
most of the wooded parts of North America. They are absent or rare in the arid
deserts, and not common in the densely forested regions. Favorite habitat
includes open woodland, hammocks, orchards, roadside hedges, farmyards, and
urban areas (Bent 1939). Occasionally, these birds nest at elevations above
9,000 feet in the central Rockies (Bailey and Niedrach 1965). Most populations
are considered nonmigratory; however, there is some movement from north to
south and from high elevations to the plains during winter.
Nest: Downy woodpeckers resemble common flickers in many of their nesting habits. Both prefer to excavate near the tops of dead trees in fairly open timber stands. They generally excavate new cavities each year in the same tree, but do not usually use cavities of other birds or reuse old cavities (Lawrence 1967). In the fall, these birds excavate fresh holes to use as winter roosts (Kilham 1962). Nest holes are normally 8 to 50 feet above the ground with an entrance hole 1 .2 to 1 .4 inches in diameter (Bent 1939).
Food: The diet is about 75 percent animal and 25 percent vegetable material. Animal material consists mostly of economically harmful insects. Kilham (1970) found that beetles, mostly wood-boring larvae, made up 21.5 percent of the diet. Other materials included ants (21 percent), caterpillars (16.5 percent), weevils (3 percent), and fruit (6 percent). Like hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers have been credited with reducing forest pests (MacLellan 1958, 1959, Olson 1953).
woodpeckers are commonly found in mesquite and deciduous woodland along streams
in desert regions of the Southwest.
Nest: Ladder-backed woodpecker nests are located in a variety of trees such as mesquite, screw bean, palo verde, hackberry, china tree, willow, cottonwood, walnut and oak, usually from 2 to 30 feet above ground. Saguaro cactus, yucca stalks, and branches are sometimes used for nests, as are telephone poles and fence posts (Bent 1939, Phillips et al. 1964).
Food: Insects, especially larvae of wood-boring beetles, caterpillars, and ants, are major food items. The ladderbacked woodpecker also has been reported to eat the ripe fruit of saguaro cactus (Bent 1939).
|Habitat: This western
woodpecker is an inhabitant of oak woodlands, riparian woods, and chaparral
west of the Sierras in California.
Nest: From a literature survey and personal observations, Miller and Bock (1972) summarized the following nest-tree data for 57 nests: 23 percent in oak, 19 percent in willow, 18 percent in sycamore, 16 percent in cottonwood, and 12 percent in alder. Cavities were excavated in dead limbs and trunks of trees, from 3 to 45 feet above ground.
Food: About 80 percent of the diet of Nuttall's woodpecker is insects, including 28 percent beetles, 15 percent hemipterans, 14 percent lepidopteran larvae, and 8 percent ants (Beat 1911). Most of the insects are gleaned from trunk and limb surfaces or captured on the wing (Short 1971). Wild fruits, poison oak seeds, and occasional acorns make up the vegetable portion of the diet. Nuttall's woodpeckers in California have been known to take almonds, occasionally robbing the caches of Lewis' woodpeckers (Emlen 1937, Bock 1970).
|Habitat: Arizona woodpeckers are
found in live oak and oak-pine forests and canyons from 4,000 to 7,500 feet in
Arizona and New Mexico.
Nest: The Arizona woodpecker excavates holes in dead branches of living trees, primarily walnuts, oaks, maples, and sycamores. One nest was reportedly located in a mescal stalk (Bent 1939).
Food: This woodpecker's diet probably consists largely of the adult and larval stages of insects, with some fruit and acorns, but few details of food items have been reported (Bent 1939).
woodpeckers need open, mature (at least 60 year old) pine forest with a high
fire occurrence (Bent 1939, Jackson 1971 , Hopkins and Lynn 1971). Pine species
used during breeding season include: longleaf (Crosby 1971), slash (Lowry
1960), loblolly (Sprunt and Chamberlain 1949), and shortleaf (Sutton 1967).
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are on the national "Endangered species" list.
Nest: These woodpeckers prefer living pines infected with red heart rot for nesting. These trees have a soft, easily excavated interior with a living exterior, leaving the tree less susceptible to destruction by fire than a dead tree. Cavities can often be reused for at least 20 years and for several years by the same pair (Ligon 1971). The height of cavity is influenced by the location of red heart infection and the height and density of undergrowth (Crosby 1971). The majority of cavities face west, and, when found in leaning trees, are generally on the low side (Beckett 1971 , Baker 1971).
Food: Insects make up the major portion of the diet of red-cockaded woodpeckers. Beal (1911) and Beal et al. (1916) examined 99 stomachs and found 86 percent insects and 14 percent vegetable matter, mostly mast. Beetle larvae (16 percent) and ants made up an important part of the year-round diet. The corn earworm can be a major food source during several weeks where conditions are suitable (Ward 1930). Plant material recorded being eaten includes wax myrtle, magnolia, poison ivy, wild grape, pokeberry, blueberry, wild cherry, black gum, and pecan (Real 1911 , Baker 1971 , Ligon 1971).
ponderosa pine forest from Washington to central California is the primary
habitat of the white-headed woodpecker, but it also occurs in sugar pine,
Jeffrey pine, and red and white fir forests (Grinnell and Miller
Nest: This woodpecker seems to prefer dead pines, but nests have also been found in live and dead fir, oak, and aspen. White-headed woodpeckers usually excavate a new nest cavity every year and often excavate several holes before selecting one to nest in (Bent 1939). Average nest height is 8 feet above ground.
Food: White-headed woodpeckers feed primarily on pine seeds during the winter and early spring, and on insects during the summer. Tevis (1953) determined that 60 percent of the annual diet was pine seeds and 40 percent was insects. Ants made up half of the insect food; other insects taken were wood-boring beetles, spiders, and fly larvae (Beat 1911 , Grinnell and Storer 1924, Ligon 1973).
|Habitat: The conifer forests of the north are preferred, but
this three-toed woodpecker is not abundant even in its favorite habitat. Forest
types include mixed conifer, lodgepole pine, white fir, subalpine fir, tamarack
swamps, boreal spruce balsam fir, Douglas-fir, and mixed
Nest: This species usually excavates its cavities in snags or live trees with dead heartwood, especially in areas that have been burned or logged (Bent 1939). Nests are usually in spruce, balsam fir, pines, or Douglas-fir, although maple, birch, and cedar have been used.
Food: The food of this species is similar to that of the northern three-toed woodpecker. Beal (1911) found 75 percent of the food to be wood-boring beetle larvae, mainly long-horned beetles and metallic wood-boring beetles. Weevils and other beetles, spiders, and ants are eaten along with some wild fruit, mast, and cambium. Beal estimated that each three-toed woodpecker annually consumed 13,675 wood-boring beetle larvae.
|Habitat: This highly
beneficial woodpecker is most common in coniferous forests of the West, but
does occur occasionally in the Northeast.
Nest: The northern three-toed woodpecker excavates nest cavities each year in standing dead trees or in dead limbs of live trees with rotted heartwood (Jackman and Scott 1975). Their nest cavities have been reported in pine, aspen, spruce, and cedar trees (Bent 1939). In Arizona, we found two nests in ponderosa pine snags.
Food: The northern three-toed woodpecker is probably one of the most important birds in combating forest insect pests in the western United States. Massey and Wygant (1973) found that spruce beetles comprised 65 percent of their diet in Colorado. During the winter when other foods were scarce, the spruce beetle made up 99 percent of the food taken. West and Speiers (1959) reported that both species of three-toed woodpeckers in northeastern United States feed on elm bark beetles, which carry Dutch elm disease. Koplin (1972) estimated that 20 percent of an endemic and 84 percent of an epidemic spruce beetle population in Colorado were consumed by three species of woodpeckers, the most important of which was the northern three-toed. Other foods include ants, wood-boring and lepidopteran larvae, fruits, mast, and cambium (Beat 1911 , Massey and Wygant 19731.
|Habitat: Cooke (1888)
and Bent (1939) described the largest of the North American woodpeckers as
rare, shy, and found only in the heaviest timber in virgin cypress and
bottomland forest of the South. Tanner (1942) described ivory-billed woodpecker
habitat as heavily forested and usually flooded alluvial land bordering rivers,
made up of oaks, cypress, and green ash. The most recent sightings (between 5
and 10 pairs) have been made in bottomland hardwoods that have been cut over
but still have some large, mature trees (Dennis 1967). They are included on the
national "Endangered species" list.
Nest: Nest cavities of this species have been recorded in almost every species of tree occurring within the ivory-bill's habitat (Greenway 1958). The squarish holes (Dennis 1967) are high, 16 to 65 feet, and in the trunks of living or dead trees (Greenway 1958, Forbush and May 1939).
Food: Ivory-billed woodpeckers could be of economic importance except for their small numbers (Greenway 1958). The wood-boring larvae making up a third of their diet (Real 1911) are injurious to trees (Pearson 1936), and are most abundant in areas where recently dead and dying trees are numerous because of flooding, fire, insect attacks, or storms. The birds stay as long as there are abundant larvae (Dennis 1967). They also eat fruit of magnolia and pecan trees (Beal 1911).