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The Ivory Bill·Birds

The Cavity Makers

Birds that Chip Out Tree Cavities

Woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. Nearly all tree cavities in which North American bird species nest are excavated by these birds.

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers foraging in a forest

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, Campephilus principalis

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were once found in the southeastern United States and Cuba. Although there have been reported sightings in recent years, they remain unconfirmed, and the species is considered extinct.

Red-headed woodpecker perched on tree stumps on a forest edge

Red-headed Woodpeckers, Melanerpes erythrocephalus

You can attract red-headed woodpeckers with nuts, seeds, fruit and suet in winter. They chip out tree cavities and also nest in sheds and bird houses.

Downy woodpeckers foraging on a mossy tree trunk

Downy Woodepckers, Picoides pubescens

Downy Woodpeckers are well known for their cavity-making behavior in North America. They prefer to excavate their nesting cavities in areas with plenty of food sources, such as trees with ample insect activity, as insects make up a significant part of their diet. Flocks of “downies” forage for insects, seeds and berries in small trees and bushes, sometimes with chickadees and nuthatches. You can see them in snowy winter forests and backyard trees and parks in cities.

Northern flicker on a tree trunk at its tree cavity entrans hole

Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus

Noisy flickers forage on the ground for insects, worms and wild fruits. Plant fruit bearing bushes and build bird houses to attract them.

Acorn woodpeckers perched in a tree with holes for storing acorns

Acorn Woodpeckers, Melanerpes formicivorus

Acorn woodpeckers make holes in tree bark and wood telephone poles in which to stash acorns to be retrieved later.

Lewis's woodpecker perched on a stump in a mountain forest

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis

Lewis’s woodpeckers forage for acorns, nuts, insects, seeds and wild fruit in forests and groves of western North America.

Black-backed woodpecker pair on a tree trunk in a coniferous forest

Black-backed Woodpeckers, Picoides arcticus

These tree cavity making birds feed on wood-boring beetles that thrive off of recently burned trees in Canada and western US.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers perched on a tree trunk in front of their tree cavity entrance

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Leuconotopicus borealis

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers forage in trees and bushes for insects, spiders and various berries and other fruits in southeastern US.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker foraging on a tree trunk

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers bore holes in trees and return to feed on the sap flowing from the these holes and insects attracted to sap in Canada and northeastern US.

American three-toed woodpeckers on a tree stump in a snow covered coniferous forest

American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Picoides dorsalis

American Three-toed Woodpeckers forage in insect infested forests for wood-boring beetles, other insects, their larvae, tree sap and various berries and fruit in Canada and western US.

Red-breasted sapsucker perched on a tree branch

Red-breasted Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus ruber

Red-breasted sapsuckers are another woodpecker that bore hole patterns in trees, returning to feed on the flowing sap and insects attracted to the sap in western US and Canada.

Pileated woodpeckers perched on tree trunks in a forest

Pileated Woodpeckers, Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated Woodpeckers forage under loose tree bark in older hardwood forests for wood-boring beetles, ants and for various berries and fruit throughout most of North America.

Hairy woodpecker foraging on a tree trunk

Hairy Woodpecker, Picoides villosus

Hairy woodpeckers forage for insects in tree bark crevices and for nuts and berries. You can hear them and similar looking downy woodpeckers hammering and drumming in forests, groves and in city parks throughout most of North America.

Williamson's sapsuckers foraging on a tree trunk in a forest

Williamson’s SapsuckersSphyrapicus thyroideus

Williamson’s Sapsuckers feed on insects attracted to sap that flows from tree holes they bore in western North America. They bore out new tree cavities every year.

Golden-fronted woodpeckers perched on a tree stump

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Melanerpes aurifrons

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers forage in tree bark and on the ground for beetles, ants and other insects and nuts, seeds, berries and various fruit in Texas and Mexico.

Red-bellied woodpecker perched on a tree branch

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus

Red-bellied woodpeckers chisel and pry tree bark foraging for beetles and various insects and nuts, seeds and fruit in bushes in Eastern US.

Black-capped chickadee foraging pine seeds

Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus

Flocks of black-capped chickadees forage for insects in trees and under brush and leaves and in bushes for berries, seeds and fruit in Canada and northern US.

Mountain chickadee hanging from a coniferous tree branch

Mountain Chickadee, Poecile gambeli

Mountain Chickadees forage in trees and thickets for insects, spiders, seeds and fruit in coniferous and mixed forests in western Canada and US.

Carolina chickadee in a coniferous tree

Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis

Carolina chickadees forage for insects, seeds and fruit in small flocks often with black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers in southeastern US.

Chestnut-backed chickadee perhed on a coniferous tree branch

Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Poecile rufescens

Chestnut-backed Chickadees forage in trees and thickets for insects, spiders, cone seeds and wild fruits in far western Canada and US. Feed chickadees suet, peanut butter, nuts and seeds at back yard feeders.

Boreal chickadee perched on a tree twig

Boreal Chickadee, Poecile hudsonicus

Boreal chickadees forage in crevices, under loose bark and foliage of coniferous trees for beetles, spiders, insects, seeds and fruit some of which they store for long harsh northern winters in boreal forests of Canada and northern New England states..

Gray-headed chickadee perched on a tree twig

Grey-headed-Chickadee, Poecile cinctus 

Grey-headed-chickadees forage in trees, shrubs and on the ground for insects, their eggs and larvae, seeds and fruit in northwestern Canada and Alaska.

Mexican chickadee perched on a twig

Mexican Chickadee, Poecile sclateri

Mexican chickadees forage in small flocks in central and northeastern Mexico, southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.​

Brown-headed nuthatches near their tree cavity entrance and a cabin in a forest in the background

Brown-headed Nuthatches, Sitta pusilla 

Brown-headed nuthatches range in southeastern US. They have straight bills with sharp tips for foraging in crevices and under bark, cracking nut shells apart and boring out nesting cavities.

Red-breasted nuthatches foraging on tree branches

Red-breasted Nuthatches, Sitta canadensis

Red-breasted nuthatches forage for insects and spiders in bark crevices, eat pine seeds and are attracted to suet feeders. They wedge nuts into the cracks of bark so that they may hammer them apart or for later retrieval.

Pygmy nuthatches perched on a coniferous tree branch

Pygmy Nuthatches, Sitta pygmaea 

Pygmy Nuthatches forage for beetles, ants, wasps, spiders, caterpillars various other insects, their larva and eggs in tree bark and on pine cone seeds in forests of southern British Columbia, western US and Mexico.

White-breasted nuthatches on a tree trunk in a wintery forest

White-breasted Nuthatches, Sitta carolinensis

Year around residents throughout much of North America, white-breasted nuthatches forage up and down tree bark for insects and spiders and elsewhere for berries, nuts and seeds which they sometimes stash in the cracks of tree bark and retrieve in winter.