eWestern BirdsThe Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists
Vol. 48, No. 3
Western Field Ornithologists
Tag-Team Takeover: Usurpation of Woodpecker Nests by Western Bluebirds
Samuel Cowell, Kim Sullivan, Hannah Domgaard, Sara Lorscheider, Mariah Panoussi, Lindsey Parrish, Taryn Rodman, Teresa Lorenz, and Phil Fischer
ABSTRACT: Woodpeckers provide important ecological services by excavating nesting cavities that are used by many forest birds and other animals. Demand for nesting cavities by secondary cavity nesters can lead to intense competition for this limited resource. The Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) is known to usurp nests from its own and other species. However, the process by which bluebirds take over nests from woodpeckers larger than themselves has not been well documented. In order to understand this process, we analyzed 112 hours of video footage of nests of a Black-backed (Picoides arcticus) and a Hairy Woodpecker (P. villosus) located in the Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. Usurpation first involves a short period of physical confrontation followed by a prolonged period of constant presence around the nest. The male and female bluebirds cooperate by taking turns harassing the woodpecker and guarding the nest. This may be of concern to managers as the Black-backed Woodpecker is considered a species at risk in certain locations.