By Dessi Sieburth

Male Western Bluebird

This is a male Western Bluebird. It is one of the birds that rely on woodpeckers for cavities.

 A cavity is a hollowed-out dead branch with an entrance hole. A cavity is hollowed out by a woodpecker. The woodpecker does not get a headache for all this pecking because the bones in a skull keep its brain comfortable and avoid concussions. Its skull is very flexible and it has a very strong lower bill, which is longer than the upper bill. After excavating the cavity, the woodpecker will nest in the cavity. After the woodpecker is done nesting, another bird, such as a Western Bluebird will move in and raise its young in the cavity. The bluebird could not excavate its own cavity because its bill is not hard enough to make a branch hollow. The bluebird is not the only bird that relies on woodpeckers for cavities. Other birds rely on woodpeckers, too, including Ash-throated Flycatcher, Purple Martin, Oak Titmouse, American Kestrel, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser.

Replica-Cavity web

This is a replica cavity that I made and use for education.

Unfortunately, many dead trees that woodpeckers need in order to make cavities are being lost. People cut dead trees down for safety and because they think a dead tree doesn’t look nice and there is nothing living inside of it. But in reality, dead trees are full of life. Birds, insects, and fungi all need dead trees. What people really should be doing is leaving at least a foot of a dead branch or the lower part of a trunk instead of cutting down the entire dead trunk or branch. This is enough for woodpeckers to still make cavities.

Acorn-Woodpecker web

This is an Acorn Woodpecker, a cavity nester.

Click to link to a video from one of our members of a Nuttall's Woodpecker excavating a cavity.

Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 6 July August 2015 (PDF)