Monday, June 19, 2017 Three-toed Woodpeckers

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:32 am, sunset 11:26 pm for a total day light of 18 hours and 54 minutes. Tomorrow will be 0 minutes and 8 seconds longer as we approach the Summer Solstice on June 20. The low today was 41 at 5 am, and the high peaked out at 60, about half that of Arizona. Whew!

The clouds rolled in today after many sunny days, with a bit of rain in the forecast to keep everything green. Flowers are in bloom from the magenta Nagoonberries inches off the ground to the white “cauliflower” clusters covering the Mt Ash. Fragrant lilacs and roses are starting to bloom, adding whiffs of perfume to the air.

I was fortunate today to follow a hot tip and my ears to the nesting cavity of an AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER. To protect this family at this precarious time, I will not be able to broadcast the location, but I’d like to share the story and photos.

Upon arrival at the scene, I could hear the loud, rapid staccato, non-stop begging of a very insistent baby. It reminded me of the circular breathing of a skilled didgeridoo player. While searching for the source, the sound was more faint when I was behind the nest hole, and stronger when I was in front. Finally, I narrowed it down to one or two trees and honed in. Any predator, whether winged or furred, could be on this nesting cavity in a trice.

I only saw one baby, an adorable male with a perky yellow patch on his forehead. As the female lays 3 to 6 eggs, it’s possible there were more; maybe he was standing on his complaining siblings. If so, I hope they take turns at the fast food delivery window!

A parent flashed through the nearby branches and then Mom was there with food, so exciting! She looked fairly frazzled as would any parent of such a needy baby. She easily gripped the side of the tree with her strong toes and supportive tail as she jammed her long bill down the wide-open hatch. After a short break to look around, it seemed she regurgitated more food and stuffed that down too. The baby’s head just about filled the diameter of the cavity; he’s probably almost ready to fledge.

I didn’t hang around long enough to see if Dad was also helping to feed the family. According to the field guide, he helps incubate the eggs during that 12-14 day period and then helps feed the babies. The young leave the nest 22-26 days after hatching, but remain with the parents for another 4-8 weeks. With that lengthy time of hard work, no wonder there’s only one brood per year!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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