The woodpecker belongs to one of the most exciting types of forest birds. There are more than 300 known species worldwide, and 22 inhabit the United States. These birds are part of the family Picidae, together with sapsuckers, piculets, and wrynecks. Members of this family can be spotted worldwide, except in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, and the polar regions.
These birds are quite common and they’re easily recognizable, thanks to their striking plumage and equally interesting behaviors. But, have you ever wondered how long they live?
How long do woodpeckers live?
Woodpeckers survive for about an average of 4 to 11 years in the wild. This greatly varies depending on the species and like any other animals and avians, woodpeckers’ survival increases in captivity. But in the wild, it drastically decreases due to predators, hunting, and extreme deforestation leading to habitat loss.
The family’s smallest member, the Least Pygmy Woodpecker, has an average lifespan of 2 years in the wild. On the other hand, the largest one alive today, the Pileated Woodpecker, can live 12 to 13 years.
Factors That Affect The Woodpecker’s Lifespan
The lifespan of a woodpecker in the wild is greatly affected by different factors. The most common include:
Habitat loss due to deforestation: Deforestation is a big factor in the Woodpecker’s decreasing population. It leads to loss of habitat and nesting sites, which greatly reduces their chances of survival.
Loss of food sources: As the woodpecker’s natural habitat disappears, so do their food sources. Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, and with the loss of trees, these insects are also gone.
Predation: Woodpeckers are preyed on by a variety of animals including snakes, hawks, owls, and even squirrels. Their eggs and young are also vulnerable to being eaten by these predators.
Hunting by humans: Unfortunately, some people see woodpeckers as pests and hunt them for sport or to get rid of them.
Diseases: Woodpeckers can contract different diseases, just like any other animal. These diseases can be deadly and often lead to death.
Despite the many threats they face, woodpeckers are still around thanks to their adaptability. They have been known to nest in man-made structures such as telephone poles and buildings.
The woodpecker lifecycle begins when the female lays her eggs, usually 4 to 8 per clutch. The eggs are incubated for about 2 weeks before they hatch. Both parents help care for the young, which are born naked and blind.
The young woodpeckers leave the nest after 4 to 6 weeks. They are able to fly and fend for themselves but are still dependent on their parents for food. After about a year, they are fully independent and ready to start their own life cycle.
Baby Woodpeckers Development Stage
When bird eggs hatch, they are either altrical or precocial. This means that they are either born naked and helpless or covered in feathers and able to fend for themselves. Woodpecker chicks are born altricial, which means they are born naked, blind, and dependent on their parents for food and care.
As the chicks grow, they develop their plumage and begin to look like their parents. At 4 to 6 weeks old, they leave the nest and are able to fly. They are still dependent on their parents for food but are now able to fend for themselves.
After about a year, the young woodpeckers are fully independent and ready to start their own life cycle.
Physical maturity is the point where their adult plumage is complete and their beak and body have reached their full size. At this point, they are ready to mate and produce offspring of their own. For most species, this happens at one year old, but for some, it can take up to two years.
The woodpecker mating season usually begins in late spring and early summer. During this time, the male will try to attract a mate by drumming on trees or branches. He will also build her a nest, usually in a dead tree or log. Once she accepts him, they will mate and begin their family.
Why do woodpeckers have a short lifespan?
One of the main reasons woodpeckers has a shorter lifespan than other birds is because of the dangers they face in the wild. However, the biggest threat to their survival is humans. Humans cause habitat loss through deforestation and urbanization. This destroys the homes of woodpeckers and forces them to find new places to live. In fact, the Ivory-billed woodpecker became extinct with severe habitat loss being a major factor.
Despite their adaptability, these threats take a toll on the woodpecker population and shorten their lifespan.
Need help with woodpeckers?
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Birds diligently build nests for various reasons: to have their young close to food sources, protect them from the elements, and camouflage them from predators. The type of bird dictates where their nest site will be, with some in trees (forest), bushes, on the ground, or even near water.
Now you know where birds build their nests! Keep this information in mind the next time you see a bird nesting in your yard or a tree near your home. And if you ever need help with bird removal, call a professional like AAAC Wildlife Removal.
To learn more about the lifespan of woodpeckers and their unique habitats, click here: woodpecker lifespan.