ABSTRACT

Most examples of woodpeckers preying on vertebrates are thought to be opportunistic, and the wider role that some woodpeckers play as nest predators of other birds has not been appreciated until recently. To date, predation on nestling birds has been documented in at least 10 woodpecker species, including 5 of the 6 species of Melanerpes that nest in the United States. From 2018 to 2020, we documented 57 instances in which adult Lewis's Woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis) provisioned young with nestling passerines (11.9% of 480 food deliveries), which constitutes the first verification of nest predation in this species. Among picids, nest predation is considered to be a widespread and typical foraging strategy only in the Red-bellied Woodpecker (M. carolinus) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). We suggest that additional research will reveal that other woodpecker species routinely prey on nestling birds.

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