West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)1


The Delphi West-Indian Woodpeckers are at it again. In all senses of the phrase. When they first became infatuated with the wooden slats on the underside of the verandah roof, it was necessary – for the sake of the building – to divert them. This was quickly done by the simple expedient of building and installing two nesting boxes under the eaves.

West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)3

An annual routine has been established. In March, the pair discuss quite loudly and at length which of the two boxes they prefer (usually the right-hand one). There follows enthusiastic housework, shelf-building, nursery decoration and so forth; after which they go ‘at it’… and move in. Continuing internal improvements take place, and they fly in and out busily. This year a yellow-throated warbler had the insolence to trespass into the box and we saw him abruptly ejected.

West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)2

In due course the pair produce up to 6 chicks in their first brood. The nestlings start by making a small buzzing noise, but within days – hours? – they are calling loudly and demandingly for food. The parents take it in turns to fly off and bring back assorted insects of increasing size, at which stage the noise of the chicks is deafening.

West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)5

By late May or early June the chicks are ready to fledge. Meanwhile, their parents take a break from feeding duties to renovate the second nest box, preparing it for their second brood. I have seen, even with eyes averted, the adults shamelessly mating on top of the second nest box while their chicks are jostling at the entrance to the first box, working out how to fly.

West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)4

The fledglings fly off  eventually into the coppice and pine forest (they stay around for a few days until they get the hang of finding their own food). And the adults repeat the same family-raising routine in the second nest box. The last time I saw the second brood fly, 4 left the box quite quickly – within about 5 minutes of each other. A fifth took one look at the world and disappeared into the depths of the box. A sixth teetered on the edge of the box for nearly half an hour – with both parents shouting encouragement at it – before finally launching into space. His timid sibling then shot out of the box into the great unknown. The breeding season was accomplished.


West-Indian Woodpeckers are one of Abaco’s speciality species. In the Bahamas they are found only on Abaco and – a long way off – San Salvador. They are unknown on other islands. Until quite recently these birds were also found on Grand Bahama, but are sadly now extirpated, presumably for the familiar reasons…

West Indian Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)7

All photos: RH (the last one is from 2014)


Bahamas-Great Abaco_6568_Hairy Woodpecker_Gerlinde Taurer copy


Delphi is an excellent place for woodpeckers. The Lodge itself has its own resident WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS, who generally raise two broods a year in the nest boxes under the eaves. The coppice and pinewoods along the one-mile drives are home to the smaller Hairy Woodpeckers Picoides villosus, where they too nest annually. There’s a particular tall dead tree on the guest drive that is used every year, and from early March it is the first place I check for signs of occupation. If evident, I take it as a sign of good luck (and hope it extends to my fishing).

Hairy Woodpecker, Abaco (Alex Hughes) Hairy Woodpecker, Abaco (Bruce Hallett) Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Peter Mantle)I can’t believe I haven’t featured a hairy woodpecker for more than 2 years. As we prepare for our forthcoming trip to Abaco HQ and the consequent plethora of photos (95% of which will be deleted), here is a small gallery of males (red caps) and females, some of them taken at Delphi. Check out those huge claws of the one below at her nest on the dead tree mentioned above.

Hairy Woodpecker female. Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copyHairy Woodpecker male. Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copyBahamas-Great Abaco_5247_Hairy Woodpecker_Gerlinde Taurer copyHairy Woodpecker, Abaco (Tony Hepburn)

I photographed this female last year in a tree near the swimming pool. I watched it for some time, but it must have been camera shy, because although quite unconcerned by my presence, it never came right out into the open. Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“Knock on Wood”, the 1966 hit for Eddie Floyd, was co-written with the amazing Steve Cropper (‘house guitarist’ for Stax). It has been much-covered over the years, none more unexpectedly than by David Bowie on his 1974 Live album (also released as a single). Here is the originator, in a live performance. 
Credits: Gerlinde Taurer (1, 7), Alex Hughes, Bruce Hallett, Peter Mantle, Tom Sheley (5, 6), Tony Hepburn, Keith Salvesen



The hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) inhabits forest, woodland or coppice over a wide area of the North American continent and the islands to the east, including the Bahamas. They are mostly permanent residents, though there is a degree of migration within their territorial area.

They are a very familiar sight on Abaco, along with their larger cousins the West Indian Woodpecker. These birds forage on trees for insects, turning over bark or excavating deeper. They also feed on fruits, berries and nuts. It’s not unusual for them  to attack the woodwork on houses in a search for bugs…

This male hairy woodpecker is prospecting a promising hole near the Delphi Club guest driveThe marks at the bottom of the hole suggest this may be a nesting hole – past, present or futureIt’s certainly deemed worth further investigation… if only he had someone to share it with

He may be in luck! This female hairy woodpecker was in the coppice not far away… A female HW is smaller than the male and lacks the male’s distinctive red head marking. They nest in a tree hole like the one above, where the female usually produces four white eggs.