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)



The starting point / excuse for this post is the nest box for West Indian woodpeckers under the eaves of the Delphi Club verandah. Put ‘woodpecker’ into the home page SEARCH box and you will find various posts about last season’s epic: the reluctance to use the box; the gradual acceptance; the summer nesting and breeding; the heroic stand of the male woodpecker who guarded the box throughout the rampage of Hurricane Irene

Happy to roost here – deeply suspicious of the new wooden structure over there

(Later) No place like Home(©Peter Wesley Brown)

For some years, great spotted woodpeckers have drilled away at the grey poplar tree at the end of our small London garden. A male gouged out a number of exploratory holes near the top, strewing a carpet of wood chips onto the grass below. One year he attracted a mate, eggs were laid and hatched, a huge amount of chattering and scolding ensued – quite annoying at times in persistence and volume. One weekend we were away and returned to… silence. The fledgling woodpeckers had had their flying lessons and left for good. We missed them.

Since then, the male cleaned out the hole each Spring and drilled a few spare holes for practice, but despite his impressive real estate portfolio, he didn’t attract a mate. He made another, lower hole. No luck. Until this year. In January he brought a new bird home and together they mucked out the hole and settled in – about 2 months early, and with snow on the way. In the absence of current news of the West Indian woodpeckers and their nest at the Delphi Club, here are a few pictures of domestic bliss 4250 miles away… Click images to enlarge

A cosy home – hope the neighbours are nice 

Time to go and get a take-out…

…and bring it home for the wife

An act of gross provocation by a starling.  I predict trouble. News update soon

I can’t make out if the photo below is just a horrendously bad photo taken with a cheap camera, a fixed shutter speed, and cold shaking hands; or a powerful image of a beautiful bird artistically captured in full flight, the type of action shot that bird photographers strive for years to achieve (Mrs RH has a view on this). If the former, apologies. If the latter (highly unlikely), my professional tip is to use a tiny point ‘n’ shoot into the sun while moving around quite a bit. Whichever, I’ve awarded it a ‘cameo’ format to emphasise the essential artistry of the shot