Jun 13, 2013

Acorn woodpecker re-nested

Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Center Silicon Valley

Yesterday, we assisted the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in re-nesting a young acorn woodpecker.

The baby bird was found on 
June 10th at the base of a palm tree in an apartment complex in San Jose, CA. The finder did the right thing by transporting the baby bird to the wildlife hospital so it could be examined for injuries and fed proper food.

The little woodpecker was in excellent condition, strong, feisty and aggressively begging from caregivers. It was definitely a candidate for re-nesting, but, due to the complex nature of the species, the baby needed to be returned quickly.

Acorn woodpecker are quite unusual in their social structure, and their breeding behavior is even more strange.

Acorn woodpeckers
live together in small groups of up to 12 or more individuals, often related, with one or more breeding males and females. Breeding females share a single nest - all eggs are deposited into one nest cavity. What's quite strange, is that each breeding female will destroy any eggs in the nest until she begins laying. Broken eggs are moved to another location and consumed.

Because acorn woodpeckers excavate cavities to roost in at night, we'd need to be extra diligent in locating the actual nest cavity.

Danielle, the finder, was kind enough to re-trace her steps to the exact spot where she'd found the baby bird. She texted detailed directions and photographs to help us find the right tree. It was a large palm tree, about 40' high. We would need a bucket truck!

Early Wednesday morning, we reached out to nearby arborists and tree trimming companies. Anderson's Tree Care was quick to respond, and said they'd send one of their crewmen to help put the baby back.

One of WES' lead responders, Sammarye, transported the little bird from the wildlife hospital and rendezvoused with Rebecca at the apartment complex.

Once on scene, the team had their first real look at the home tree, and saw that there were numerous woodpecker holes ringing the trunk, just below the canopy. They'd have to wait for the adults to help them identify an active nest.

It wasn't long before a group of four adults landed on the tree. One of them entered a hole, completely disappearing for about 20 seconds before flying back out. We figured that would be a place to start.

Mike from Anderson's Tree Care was extremely generous with his time. Using the lift on his truck, he took a closer look at the various cavities. He even used our borescope to check inside the hole where the adult had entered, but found nothing - it was too deep.

Rebecca consulted with Ashley Kinney, Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor for the wildlife center, and the decision was made to place the baby in the active hollow. Mike gently introduced the nestling to the cavity and immediately plugged the entrance with a piece of fabric to keep it from popping back out.

After about five minutes, the plug was pulled out of the hole. There was no sign of the baby, but it began calling when it heard the adults vocalizing from an adjacent tree. Check out the video to see what transpired.

Today, Sammarye spent a couple of hours monitoring, hoping to see the baby was alive and well, and sure enough she saw it peeking out of the hole. She also observed the adults feeding it. Great news!!! THANK YOU SAMM!!!

Photo by Sammarye Lewis.
Photo by Sammarye Lewis.



Lindsay said...

Wow! I would LOVE to learn more about these birds!
thank you for the introduction!

Anonymous said...

You guys really deserve a medal.Thank you for caring for our urban woodpeckers. I'm sure they are happy but couldnt care a less about us humans