Mount Lassen from Manzanita Lake (click on photos for full sized images)
A birding friend of mine listed nesting White-headed Woodpeckers (Picoides albolarvatus) on the local Shasta County listserve so I thought I’d head up to Lassen Park to check it out. I wanted to do a bit of scouting before our annual Audubon Outing anyway and it’s only an hour from my house.
White-headed Woodpecker Male
The White-headed Woodpecker is a non-migratory bird found in mixed coniferous forests dominated by pine trees in far western North America. Yah, another western species
Why are they found only in this habitat? Pine seeds are an important part of their diet through much of the year but especially in fall and winter. Throughout their range they require habitat with an abundance of mature pines (with large cones and abundant seed production) and availability of snags and stumps for nest cavities1.
This pair was bringing beaks full of insects to what was left of a burned out stump of a huge pine tree, the remains of which were probably three feet in diameter and only eight to ten feet tall.
The adults were arriving pretty regularly to the cavity entrance to feed the persistent demands of the nestlings. Here the male shows his red occipital patch and you will notice that the nestling’s crown is all white.
In a subsequent trip a different nestling, with a hint of pale scarlet on its crown, comes to the entrance.
And again, the hungry white-crowned nestling. Note that the adult always turns its head to the side to accommodate the nestling during the transfer of mainly larvae and adult insects.
This is clearly a third and different nestling with an extensive scarlet crown patch.
White-headed Woodpeckers usually lay 4 to 5 eggs in a clutch and we’ve seen at least three different nestlings here now.
You can tell that these nestlings were getting close to fledging too. This one was sticking his head completely out of the entrance hole.
The female White-headed Woodpecker looks like the male without the red occipital patch.
She was doing more than her fair share of feeding the kids too. During the photo shoot, the adults were bringing something to the nest about every 15 minutes or so.
Fledging usually occurs in late June and early July when the nestlings are about 26 days old. At that time the adults will call and drum near the nest cavity to coax the nestlings out of the nest1. You saw this in the video at the top of the post.
The adults will usually attend the fledglings for another month or two as their flight skills increase, each parent taking care of half of the youngsters. I will look for them on our outing in a few weeks.
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the habitat manager for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Stamp.
Donna's 2014 Year List - 547
Redgannet's 2014 Year List - 520
Carlos's 2014 Year List - 346
Corey's 2014 Year List - 301
Jochen's 2014 Year List - 300
Clare M's 2014 Year List - 272
Duncan's 2014 Year List - 174
Carrie's 2014 Year List - 063
Carlos's 2013 Year List - 1587
Jochen's 2013 Year List - 553
Corey's 2013 Year List - 511
Donna's 2013 Year List - 438
Duncan's 2013 Year List - 430
Clare M's 2013 Year List - 368
Redgannet's 2013 Year List - 212
Larry's 2013 Year List - 206
Redgannet's 2012 Year List - 660
Jochen's 2012 Year List - 542
Corey's 2012 Year List - 525
Felonious Jive's 2012 Year List - 404
Duncan's 2012 Year List - 402
Clare M's 2012 Year List - 300
Clare K's 2012 Year List - 040
Greg's 2012 Year List - 004