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The Black Woodpecker's Nesting Habits

Find out more about the black woodpecker's nesting habits in this article.

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Black woodpecker

The black woodpecker tirelessly digs its nest into tree trunks. This crow-sized bird has an entirely black plumage with a red crown and is found throughout continental Europe.

For us humans, a forest is at best a beautiful recreational area where we can go for a walk, relax and enjoy nature. However, a merciless real estate market rages above our heads. Black woodpecker nest holes are sought after by many animals. What makes those cavities in the wood so special?

A hard earned nest hole
Black woodpeckers usually dig their nest holes in beech trees. Those trees are known for the hardness of their wood and it makes the nest construction very exhausting and time-consuming. But in the end the black woodpecker family has a very durable home protected from wind and weather.

Woodpeckers have many predators; the main threat is the pine marten. To keep this nimble predator out, the nest cavity must fulfil certain conditions. It must be as high as possible (10 to 12 meters), directly under the crown where there are no branches for climbing. Moreover, the bark should be very smooth and not easy to climb on. The black woodpecker also has to make sure that the nest hole is not too close to young trees; they could provide easy access to the nest once tall enough.

Winged predators
Sadly for woodpeckers, some predators couldn’t care less how high the nest hole is or how hard the climb could be. That’s why the black woodpecker must dig deep! The cavity has to be 40 centimeters deep to provide protection from winged predators like the northern goshawk, the common buzzard or the ural owl.
But birds of prey are not easily discouraged. They have developed a different strategy based on the surprise effect. They stay near the nest hole, waiting for an unwary bird to show itself at the entrance and swoop down on their victim.

A home for many species
It doesn’t take long before a vacant woodpecker nest finds a new occupant. Stock doves are never far and they often take over the nest only one day after the woodpeckers have left. Many other species use vacant woodpecker nests: jackdaws and boreal owls, but also wild bees, bats and dormice. The competition can be quite ferocious.

 

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