Sapsucker Nest

Last week I was in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania, on a visit over the holiday weekend. It’s always fun to get a chance to see and hear the eastern birds I grew up with that we don’t have out west – Blue Jays, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Phoebes, and all the rest. This time, the highlight was spotting a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest just twenty feet or so off a trail.

DSC_1071 (677x1024)It was the very noisy begging calls of the woodpecker chicks hidden inside that first gave away the nests’ location, and once we stopped and watched we were able to spot both parents coming and going. Here’s Dad emerging from the cavity with a beakful of something, probably cleaning things out a bit – this was actually the only time we saw him and it was hard to get a good picture:

DSC_1075 (681x1024)It was Mom (without the extensive red forehead and chin) who kept coming and going with food, posing for photos.

DSC_1090 (674x1024)I’m normally not great at finding nests (though I seem to be having more luck than usual this year), so this was a treat. Now I’m back home in Walla Walla, and with high temperatures climbing into the triple digits this weekend, I’m not planning on hiking again for a little while!






Who doesn’t love Killdeer? These bold birds are perhaps the most habituated to humans of any North American plover, nesting in almost any open area. This spring a pair have nested in the corner of one of the wildflower beds in the school garden.


010Even though they nest on the ground right out in the open, the nests can be surprisingly hard to spot – the eggs are very well camouflaged! If you do approach a Killdeer nest, the parents will try to lead you away with a distraction display, pretending to drag broken wings to make themselves look like easy targets for predators. That’s what the bird below was doing.

011I like this photo because you can see the bird’s eyes even though you’re looking directly at the back of its head. Prey birds like this can have an almost 360° field of vision.

I’ll try to get some more photos once the eggs hatch. Killdeer chicks are cuuuuuuuute. Tiny little plover fluffballs!