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Old Jul 4, 2004, 10:36 PM   #1
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I discovered somewhere (can't recall exactly where, perhaps even from here...geoff?) that the Sapsuckers continuously feed the babies and 10 minutes won't go by without one or the other returning, which is helpful with the photography, since I've found that return time is predictable and an absolute guarantee. It also explains how the "mum" can be so fast, primarily because it's not just mum, it's both mum and dad.
I'm amazed as well at the huge pile of what appears to be ants in their mouth as they bring them to the baby. I thought they returned with one insect at a time, but they obviouslywish to be more productive,shoveling a pile down that baby's mouth each time. I don't know how it doesn't eventually burst from over-eating. And the speed that these birds feed their young is nothing less than amazing. They remain on the tree for no longer than 1 or 2 seconds, then they are gone again.

Here are a couple of photos, not good technically but they help to demonstrate the above.

I can count at least 4 bugs in this woodpecker's mouth and I'd guess there are probably 4 more on the other side and 2 crawling along it's head somewhere.



Here's a photo of mom/dad (whoever)sticking the morsels down baby's throat, and this mouthful is even more bugs. This feeding happens at least twice every 5 or 10 minutes, all day long, and probably all night long as well. How in the world does this baby eat so much without exploding! And it continuously calls out for more, more more, non stop.



Mama/papa shovelling



Coming in for a landing with a mouthful for the kid (he/she would stay on the tree for about 1 second or less and be off again to get another mouthful)








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Old Jul 4, 2004, 10:42 PM   #2
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Great sequence of action shots. That must have been really fun to watch and get to photograph. Thanks for sharing the shots.
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Old Jul 4, 2004, 10:48 PM   #3
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zoomn, they are probably the most interesting birds I've ever watched and photographed. I was a bit concerned this morning when I visited because I had to wait for about 10 minutes until an adult came around to feed. I was thinking "crows" and things like that for the entire time, wondering if I'd be able to climb the tree and begin a rescue if necessary. Thankfully, that wasn't necessary.
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Old Jul 4, 2004, 11:01 PM   #4
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Great documentation of the sapsucker's parental feeding behavior, Norm! And good photos to boot.

The adult in all of these photos still appear to be the male. I say this because the red under the head covers both the throat and chin areas so far as I can tell. The female usually wouldn't have the red coloration on her chin. But... (there's always a but) I've read that this is variable and some females have more rather than less or no red on the chin. What I said above applies if this sapsucker is the Red-Naped variety. Female Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers never have red under the head.

Okay, now as I explained in your previous posting of these sapsuckers, since I was last into birding in a serious manner, the powers that be have split what used to be considered all the same species (conspecific) into 3 different sapsucker species: Yellow-Bellied, Red-Naped, Red-Breasted. This bird (and the ones in the other topic you posted their pictures in) were originally id'ed by me as the Yellow-Bellied but others told you it was the Red-Naped. Well, I've really got to say that to me this still looks like the Yellow-Bellied and not the Red-Naped. Why? Because the Red-Naped would have had a patch of red on its nape (ie: further down on the back from the red on the crown) in either male or female, and this bird does not exhibit that at all.

Finally, on to the issue of the hungry little one. Peterson's describes the sapsuckers as having clutches of 4-6 eggs. Let's take the lower number and say that your hole had 4 eggs and then let's say only 3 hatched. That would mean that you probably are looking at adults having to keep 3 young birds well fed so they can grow up really quickly. If the adults come back to the nest on 10 minute intervals, that means that each nestling gets fed once every half hour assuming that they are all fed fairly (that rarely happens but let's just assume it). I think that much food every half hour is reasonable as these young nestlings must do a lot of growing up in a very short time.



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Old Jul 4, 2004, 11:14 PM   #5
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Some interesting considertions, geoff, thanks. What I need to do is get some crystal clear shots of each chick that puts it's head through the hole in hopes that some difference can be discovered. I've been "sun-wise" on the wrong side of the hole since I've begun this excursion, and it's been very rainy and overcast here for the whole weekend...grrr. I need to photograph this nest in the evening when the sun is at my back and when I can see some blue sky.

As for the feeder parent, I strongly doubt that only one adult is feeding these chicks just from what I've seen over the past few days...if it's only one parent, it's super mom, and mom is very very fast because I've seen a feeding only 1 minute away from another from time to time. However, I'll need to focus on getting some good clear shots of each time a feeding occurs, and time sequence, in order to work some soluable evidence into the matter.

One serious difficulty I have with there being more than one chick is the "sound" I'm hearing. I've been a musician for many many years and my ear is pretty well tuned. I'm hearing "one" sound from that hole. If these birds stop sounding once fed, then that would explain why I'm hearing only one at a time. Any thoughts on this?

Thanks for your input, as always!


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Old Jul 5, 2004, 12:53 AM   #6
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Normcar wrote:
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As for the feeder parent, I strongly doubt that only one adult is feeding these chicks just from what I've seen over the past few days...if it's only one parent, it's super mom, and mom is very very fast because I've seen a feeding only 1 minute away from another from time to time. However, I'll need to focus on getting some good clear shots of each time a feeding occurs, and time sequence, in order to work some soluable evidence into the matter.
Well, I would love to see you get photos of both parents too. It's possible that may never happen for a reason out of your control. Sometimes one of the parents gets killed (accident, predation, disease) and then it is up to the remaining parent to do the duties of both, and that would explain why we've only seen pictures of what appears to be the male. If you've observed this sapsucker nesting hole for extended periods and not seen two distinctly different birds coming to feed, then this may be what's happened.


Quote:
One serious difficulty I have with there being more than one chick is the "sound" I'm hearing. I've been a musician for many many years and my ear is pretty well tuned. I'm hearing "one" sound from that hole. If these birds stop sounding once fed, then that would explain why I'm hearing only one at a time. Any thoughts on this?
Your theory about round-robin noise making by the young could always be a possibility. However, I'll trust your instincts and ear. If you believe there is only one bird in there, I'll believe you until you find out otherwise. Look at this quote from a yellow-bellied sapsucker study by Runde and Capen (1987):

[align=left]
Quote:
The young fledge the nest in 25 to 29 days (Kilham 1977). Feeding of the young is a task shared equally between both parents, both in the nest cavity and several days after the young fledge (Kilham 1977). Between feedings the young are very vocal which makes them quite conspicuous (Kilham 1977).
[/align]
[align=left]If you are patient enough, you should be able to follow the progress of this family until the young take their first ventures out of the cavity. At that point you should be able to see how many young there are.[/align]
[align=left]Also, it is not uncommon for one or a few nestlings to "hog" the feeding times, making those hogs stronger over time and the others that are not getting enough food weaker and weaker until, at worst case, theydie before fledging. Whether or not your family comes under this category we cannot tell without actually looking into the nesting cavity.[/align]
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Old Jul 7, 2004, 9:56 PM   #7
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Great photos of the Red-naped Sapsucker, Norm! This is actually "Dad" feeding the young'n. Male RNSA have an all red throat whereas the female has a patch of white in the "chin" above the red throat (but below the bill).

I've been seeing a lot of these birds feeding young lately, (counted 26 individual RNSA adults today). Some nests I've run across have young that have fledged the nest cavity, with others still calling from the hole. Adults will "partition" the duty of tending fledged young, and it is possible the female is already feeding young some distance from the nest while the male is still defending the nest and feeding the remaining young. I saw this case with some Williamson's Sapsuckers a few days ago in SW Colorado.

The young of all North American woodpecker species call very loudly and nearly constantly from the nest hole. They can sometimes be heard from 150 meters or more. Black bears are attracted by nestlings calling from cavities and will climb aspens, birch, and cottonwoods in hope of snagging a meal. Look for the claw marks of bears in the aspen forests where you find many woodpecker cavities. When checking nests, I am careful not to touch the tree so not to leave a scent to attract a curious predator.

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Old Jul 7, 2004, 11:13 PM   #8
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Hummer wrote:
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Great photos of the Red-naped Sapsucker, Norm! This is actually "Dad" feeding the young'n. Male RNSA have an all red throat whereas the female has a patch of white in the "chin" above the red throat (but below the bill).
Hi Hummer - good to see you back from your trip and hope things went real well on it!

I'm really confused by this Red-Naped versus Yellow-Bellied id here, Hummer. True that the male Red-Naped has a throat which is red and the female's is not, but according to the Cornell website, a red-naped is going to have an additional red spot in the white stripe across the back of the head, and this bird does not exhibit that as far as I can tell. For comparison...

Red-Naped Sapsucker description and picture here.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker description and picture here.

I'm willing to accept that this is a Red-Naped but please tell me why there is no trace of that additional red spot?

The additional behavioral facts are very interesting Hummer - thanks for posting the info!
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Old Jul 7, 2004, 11:26 PM   #9
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By golly, it doesn't have a red nape, either. Nevermind. I thing I should go to bed....Hummer out.
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Old Jul 7, 2004, 11:29 PM   #10
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No problem, Hummer. I take no joy in being right - I just wanted to understand the identifying characteristics correctly because since the time I was last serious about birding, the powers that be have split what used to be one species into 3 (Red-Naped, Yellow-Bellied, Red-Headed).

BTW, it seems you must have had a good time on your trip - you didn't sleep! Alright, go catch up on your sleep time...
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