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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Friend or Foe?

So we gathered today with our WHEP group to learn about three of the birds in our region.

Hairy woodpecker 

General information 
Stages 4, 5 and 6 provide primary habitat for hairy woodpeckers. They forage on a variety of places such as tree trunks, stumps, snags, downed logs and the ground. Where adequate cover exists, food is usually not a limiting factor. They will forage in Stage 3 if areas with mature trees are nearby. They readily use wooded urban and riparian areas.

Habitat requirements
Diet: insects such as ants, beetle larvae, caterpillars and adult beetles; diet is supplemented with hard and soft mast

Water: obtained from diet

Cover: cavity nesters; holes are excavated in mature and dying trees and snags; management efforts should focus on maintaining or creating areas with large mature and dying trees, especially in open areas; within wood¬ed areas, at least one large snag per acre should be available

Northern flicker 

General information 
Northern flickers occupy all of North America, and inhabit most of the U.S. year-round. Flickers use open areas in Stages 2 and 3 interspersed with areas of Stages 5 and 6. Northern flickers are often found in riparian and urban areas. They prefer older urban residential areas with large trees, golf courses and parks. Flickers create cavities in trees for nesting and will occasionally use nest boxes. Flickers eat insects, especially ants, as well as soft mast and seeds. Flickers can become problematic in urban areas where they may create holes in wood siding on houses or damage ornamental trees. Wildlife damage management may be necessary.

Habitat requirements
Diet: ants are a favorite food and make up about 50 percent of the diet; seeds, soft mast and earthworms   
are also eaten; flickers are partial to poison ivy fruit and may use artificial feeders

Water: daily water requirements unknown; sufficient water is probably obtained from diet

Cover: tree cavities are used for nesting; old mature trees that show signs of dying or rot¬ting are often 
used; softwood trees such as yellow poplar, cottonwood and willow are preferred; flickers will nest in posts, holes in banks, and holes in houses and structures where trees are unavailable 

European starling 

General information 
European starlings are found throughout North America. They were introduced to the U.S. from Europe and are considered pests. They commonly cause damage to crops and in urban areas. They exclude native species from cavities and deplete food resources for native wildlife. As a consequence, wildlife damage management is necessary to reduce starling populations and exclude them from areas where they are causing damage. Starlings prefer older suburban and urban residential areas with large trees and shrubs interspersed with open areas but are also abundant in agricultural areas. Star¬lings are cavity nesters and nest in large trees or old buildings. Starlings feed on the ground and eat a variety of insects, seeds, grain and soft mast.

Habitat requirements
Diet: insects, soft mast, seeds, earthworms, grain, human garbage, and even dog and cat food

Water: require water during warm seasons

Cover: nest in tree cavities, old buildings

When looking over the information about these birds last night, I found it very interesting to see their connection.  The Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker share many of the same needs but look and sound very different.  There is enough differences however that they could probably co-exist in the same habitat if it is well planned.  

The big surprise came with the European Starling.  I have always known these birds to be a pain but to outright call this bird a pest and plan for its reduction in such an expansive execution was not what I was expecting.  Also, the European Starling is especially harmful to the Northern Flicker and must be addressed for landowners who desire the Northern Flicker in their habitat.  The European Starling will eventually take over the habitat of the Northern Flicker if given the opportunity.  The European Starling causes the removal of many other favorable birds and will even cause trouble for human property.  

The Northern Flicker on the other hand is very beneficial to the habitat as it rids the property of ants (50% of its diet) and other insects.  There is a chance of building damage with the Northern Flicker so a possibility of damage control is needed for this bird.  However, this is only an issue if the Northern Flicker does not have adequate cover requirements met.  

We ended our meeting with the discussion of the remainder of our project for the year.  We will end our year with presentations of the wildlife management techniques.  We will also have two guest speakers discuss song birds and pond management some time in May.  

I look forward to continuing the learning process with the 4H group!

Also, a big thank you to Ms. Christi...she put together a CD with all the bird calls!  She even had a print out so we will know what we are listening to on the CD.  I know ours will be used as we spend so much time in our car...this will give us something fun to do along the way!

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