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Woodpecker Nesting Habits [A Simple Guide]

Did you know that woodpeckers use their sharp beaks for more than just finding food? They also use them for hollowing out cavities in wood for their nests. Want to learn more about this process and other woodpecker nesting habits? You’ve come to the right place! Read on to learn more about how woodpeckers make their nests, how many eggs they lay, and how they raise their young.

Where Do Woodpeckers Make Their Nests?

where do woodpeckers make their nests

Woodpeckers typically build their nests in hollowed-out parts of tree trunks. The hollows have to be large enough to support both adult woodpeckers and several growing babies. 

Most often, woodpeckers create these hollows by pounding on the wood and slowly chipping it away. With most woodpecker species, the male does most of the work of constructing the hollows.

Sometimes woodpeckers will nest in available wooden birdhouses rather than building their own hollows. If you want to attract woodpeckers to your area, set out a large birdhouse or two in your yard and place peanut butter or sunflower seeds nearby.

Do Woodpeckers Use the Same Nest Each Year?

It depends on the species.

Most woodpecker species make new nests every spring. They do this because their old nests are usually a mess–full of feces, pieces of egg shells, and old food, making them unfit for raising another batch of babies.

Making a nest is no small feat though. It usually takes the male woodpecker about 3-6 weeks to hollow out a hole in the tree, then even longer for both the male and female to build the nest inside. 

For some woodpecker species, that takes way too much work. There are a few species, most notably red-headed and acorn woodpeckers, who will return to the same nest, clean it out, and reuse it year after year.

Why do these species reuse their nests? 

One study done on acorn woodpeckers found that this species tends to reuse nests to save time and effort on constructing new nests. This may be the driving reason behind every woodpecker species that reuses old nesting areas.

Again, though, most species do not reuse their nests, instead opting to start fresh with a new nest each year. Some of these species include:

  • Hairy woodpeckers
  • Pileated woodpeckers
  • Downy woodpeckers

What Time of Year Do Woodpeckers Lay Eggs?

what month do woodpeckers lay eggs

Most woodpeckers lay eggs during the spring and early summer, but it can depend on species and region as well as fluctuations in weather patterns from year to year. 

Some woodpeckers lay eggs during early to mid spring, usually between March and May. Others start laying eggs a little later, especially from April through July. 

In some regions of the deep south, such as southern Florida, some woodpecker species may lay an additional clutch of eggs as late as August.

How Many Eggs Does a Woodpecker Lay?

The number of eggs laid each season again depends on the specific woodpecker species we’re talking about. The average is somewhere between 4 and 6, but this number can vary widely between species, as you’ll see below: 

  • Red-headed woodpecker: 3 to 10 eggs
  • Pileated woodpecker: 3 to 5 eggs
  • Green woodpecker: 5 to 7 eggs
  • Downy woodpecker: 3 to 8 eggs

Most woodpeckers incubate their eggs for 7 to 14 days, though some incubate for much longer. Both males and females incubate the eggs.

How Often Do Woodpeckers Have Babies?

Most species have one or two broods per year, both in the spring and summer. In the south, they may have as many as 3 broods in a year because the weather stays warm for longer.

How Long Do Baby Woodpeckers Stay in the Nest?

According to St. Vincent College, baby woodpeckers generally stay in the nest for about 3 weeks, but again, this may vary somewhat from species to species. With some species, they may stay for as long as a month.

Both parents work together to care for the young woodpeckers, incubating, feeding, and brooding them. Once the babies fledge for the first time, they may remain around the nest for another few weeks as they adjust and become more independent.

Check out this video to see what feeding time at a woodpecker’s nest typically looks like.

Conclusion

Woodpeckers build their nests inside hollowed-out areas of tree trunks and other wooden objects. In many cases, they build new nests every year, though some species will reuse their nests.

The male and female work together to raise their babies, which stay in the nest for 3 weeks to a month depending on the species.

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