Nest-o-rama: Woodpecker Wonderland Festival 2009

When I volunteered to help lead field trips for the 2009 Woodpecker Wonderland Festival ( along the east slope of Oregon's central Cascades I fully expected to see lots of active woodpecker nest holes. I was not disappointed. Local leaders had been scouting for weeks in an effort to find active nests for all eleven species that occur in the area. However, I was wholly unprepared for the number of nests of other species that our groups would find.


This Western Wood-Pewee nest, found north of Sisters, Oregon, was the first of four that our tour groups found on 7 June 2009 (three at this site). All were similarly placed, resting on a forked branch.

On Sunday morning Jeff Harding and I led a group of eight festival participants to "Calliope Crossing" north of Sisters, Oregon. In addition to relocating a known Calliope Hummingbird nest, we found the nests of three pairs of Western Wood-Pewees, two pairs of Warbling Vireos, and single nests of Red-breasted Nuthatch and Mountain Chickadee. We also found active Hairy Woodpecker and Red-naped Sapsucker nests. After leaving this area, we found three Pygmy Nuthatch nests and another Western Wood-Pewee nest. 


This Warbling Vireo puts the finishing touches on its nest at "Calliope Crossing" north of Sisters, Oregon. It stopped a couple of times to settle down into the nest as if to test the fit. A good way to find a Warbling Vireo nest is to listen for a bird that is singing constantly, but never moves. Warbling Vireos regularly sing while sitting on their nests.


This Pygmy Nuthatch is returning to its nest hole with food for hungry nestlings, whose high-pitched begging calls could be heard from up to 30 meters away.

Over the course of the weekend our groups saw the active nests of 8 of the 11 species of woodpeckers that occur in the central Oregon Cascades including: Lewis's Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker.


This male Williamson's Sapsucker plays "peek-a-boo" from its nest hole located about 40 feet up in a large Ponderosa Pine snag.


The discolored bark below this Hairy Woodpecker nest hole is one of the tell-tale signs of an active woodpecker nest. White-barked aspens, like this one near Sisters, Oregon, are one of the most popular host trees for the woodpeckers that nest in the central Oregon Cascades. The constant comings and goings of the adults wear the bark. Note the darker green zig-zagging abrasions at the bottom of the smudged area. This is where the spiky tail feathers come to rest when the woodpeckers land before entering the nest hole. 


First place for coolest nest discovery of the weekend goes to Greg Gillson, who found this Pacific-slope Flycatcher nest tucked in a rock crevice about 4 feet above the Metolius River at Canyon Creek Campground north of Camp Sherman, Oregon.

While finding and documenting nests and nesting activities is fun and essential in monitoring the health of bird populations, it is important to remember to avoid spending too much time near active nest sites. Human presence may stress the adults and also prevent them from returning to feed nestlings at regular intervals. During the nesting season, be conscious of adult birds that are following you about and chipping or calling in an agitated manner. Such behaviors are a good sign that you are too close to a nest or recently-fledged young.

All photos taken by Dave Irons


Your photos really capture some of the highlights of the Woodpecker Wonderland Festival Sunday morning trip to Calliope Crossing. Thanks for capturing some of those amazing sights on camera and posting them.


I enjoyed meeting you at the Woodpecker Wonderland Festival. This is a great event and I look forward to participating as a field trip leader again next year. I have another piece in the works that I will post early next week. You may appear in one of the photos.


Remarkable ! Thank you so much for sharing.
Your comments are very interesting and instructive.
May you continue to find “birds of a feather” as you


Am trying to get the email of jeff and patricia harding-i knew them in 2002 and hope to catch up for birding in Feb 2010 when i an giving seminars in OR
Steve W


Sharp thinikng! Thanks for the answer.


Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? With thanks

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