Big woodpeckers trash others' homes | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Big woodpeckers trash others' homes

10:20am, August 28, 2001

Woodpecker biologist Daniel Saenz now has the data to show that frustrated scientists aren't imagining things. Pileated woodpeckers really are attracted to the homes of red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Saenz of the Wildlife Habitat Laboratory in Nacogdoches, Texas, frets over the cavities that the small, endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers peck out of healthy pine trees. The 8-inch-long birds routinely spend 6 years excavating before a cavity reaches the right size. A finished cavity houses a single bird.

The pileated woodpeckers, like most of the clan, usually whack their cavities out of dead trees in which a fungus has already softened the wood.

However, Saenz and other biologists have seen pileated woodpeckers start slamming away at the painstakingly excavated red-cockaded cavities, making the openings too large for the original owners to tolerate when the invader abandons the task. The 16-inch-high birds "can ruin years of work in one afternoon," laments Richard Conn

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content