Reproductive biology

All members of the Picidae are cavity nesters. Most excavate their own nest and roost cavities, a process that takes about two weeks and is shared by monogamous pair members. The wrynecks do not excavate cavities, but may enlarge one. They also differ from typical woodpeckers by sometimes adding grass or moss as a nest lining. In the red-cockaded woodpecker, cavity excavation, which is characteristically in a living pine, can take several years. A woodpecker nest cavity is usually the roost of the male. No nest material is brought in, though woodpeckers generally leave a layer of fresh chips on the bottom of the cavity and may add more chips, excavated from cavity walls during laying, incubation, and brooding of small nestlings. All picids lay shiny white eggs. At first these are somewhat translucent and may even appear pinkish; with development they become opaque. Clutch size varies within and among species, but usually averages three to five eggs. Incubation begins with laying of the last egg and is shared by both parents. Incubation periods are very short, usually 10-12 days. Young are very altricial and remain naked and with closed eyes for four to seven days. Nestlings fledge at three to six weeks and may be dependent on parents for weeks to months. Nesting success is generally high, although brood reduction through starvation of the last-hatched chick is common.

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