Why is that Tree so Noisy? Woodpeckers Welcome the Arrival of Food

Happy Father’s Day! I hope these no-so-little chicks had the decency to thank Dad today when he landed with his offerings of tasty tidbits. Is it just me, though, or do these Woodpecker kids look more demanding than thankful?!

Photo of Downy Woodpecker Chick Begging on NaturalCrooksDotCom

I first found this Downy Woodpecker nest while walking along a main trail at the Riverwood Conservancy in Mississauga two weeks ago. I had stopped to take photos of a White Admiral butterfly and of some towering Cow Parsnips in bloom. While standing, I heard a non-stop racket of wheezy chick calls. Turning, I noticed a dead snag on the far side of the path. The sound was unmistakably coming from inside.

I’m accustomed to hearing chicks get frenzied when a parent is delivering food. This noise surprised me though as the parents were no where around. Usually the young birds fall silent between feedings. I’m a bit surprised a predator didn’t hone in on all the noise.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker Male at Nest Hole on NaturalCrooksDotCom

After over a minute, a Downy Woodpecker flew swiftly in and perched on the tree trunk. The entrance nest hole was one of the smallest on the trunk. Without entering, the parent fed the chicks then flew off. The chicks never stopped calling whether their parent was there or away.

I watched while the male Downy made two more feeding trips. The female only visited once. Then I moved on to avoid stressing any of the birds.

This week I visited the nest again. As I approached the nest was quiet. I wondered if the birds had fledged or fallen prey to some predator. Turning my back to admire a Swallowtail butterfly, I was startled to hear a crescendo of whiny wheezes again. Sure enough, the female Downy was back at the hole. The chicks were still here.

Photo f Downy Woodpecker F and J at Nest on NaturalCrooksDotCom

As you can see in the photos the youngsters look likely ready to fledge. It’s hard to see at a glance just who is the adult when you compare the faces inside and outside of the nesting cavity.

This time I only watched for each parent to feed their ravenous offspring once, then I moved on. I expect the chicks will fly before I visit again. I may still be able to find them, though, if they keep up their insistent demanding calls even after they leave their nest.

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