Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
There are no McMansions in the woodpecker world. The photo shows an adult Downy Woodpecker feeding one its young. The photo was taken Tuesday at the home of a friend in Golden Valley. The nest is in a dead branch of a tree just outside his kitchen window. The entry hole is about 1.5 inches in diameter, the nest 8 to 10 inches deep in that rather narrow branch stub. Take a look at the “baby.” It looks larger than its parent. It has three or four siblings (maybe five!) beneath it in the nest. I recently read that the young of cavity-nesting bird species shift positions in the nest to ensure that everyone gets fed. The feedee in the photo will wiggle its way to the bottom of the nest after eating, allowing another chick to move to the top. Given stub diameter, it must be a tight squeeze right now for the up-down swapping. The eggs are incubated for 12 days, mom during the day, dad at night. The babies feed at the top of the nest when nine days old, and come to the entrance, as this bird is doing three days later. They leave the nest when three weeks old. They’ll depend upon their parents for food for another three weeks or so. Downy Woodpeckers have small bills. They don’t have the chopping tool given to other woodpecker species. It takes both birds working fulltime for from two to three weeks to excavate the cavity. This species often raises two broods per nesting season. It will be interesting, if they do, to see if they use the same cavity. I would.
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