Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (465 KB)

Title: Drill, baby, drill: the influence of woodpeckers on post-fire vertebrate communities through cavity excavation

Author: Tarbill, Gina L.; Manley, Patricia N.; White, Angela M.;

Date: 2015

Source: Journal of Zoology. 296(2): 95-103

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Several studies have addressed the importance of woodpeckers as ecological engineers in forests due to their excavation of cavities. Although research in green, unburned forests has identified the influence of different excavators on secondary use by cavity-dependent species, little is known about the relative importance of cavities created by woodpeckers in recently burned forests. By excavating cavities, woodpeckers create habitat for secondary cavity users that can facilitate post-fire regeneration through seed dispersal, seed germination and regulation of insect populations that affect vegetative growth. In this study, we monitored 77 cavities created by three species of Picoides woodpeckers for use by secondary cavity species in a fire that burned in the Sierra Nevada, California. At each cavity we measured nest tree and site-specific parameters to determine if these characteristics could explain differential use by secondary cavity users. We found substantial overlap in cavity characteristics between woodpecker species, with the white-headed woodpecker differing most notably in their placement of cavities in larger diameter, shorter and more decayed trees in less dense stands than either hairy or black-backed woodpeckers. These differences in cavity placement may have resulted in the high diversity and large number of detections of secondary cavity species in white-headed woodpecker cavities. Black-backed and hairy woodpeckers were similar in the number of detections of secondary cavity use, although black-backed woodpecker cavities were used by more species than hairy woodpecker cavities. Secondary cavity use was high (86%) suggesting these woodpeckers, and the white-headed woodpecker in particular, can have an accelerating affect effect on ecological succession by providing valuable habitat features for seed dispersing birds and mammals, insectivorous birds, and small predators, thereby impacting ecological processes and functions.

Keywords: burn severity, community ecology, ecological succession, community dynamics, pioneer species, post-fire habitat

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Tarbill, Gina L.; Manley, Patricia N.; White, Angela M. 2015. Drill, baby, drill: the influence of woodpeckers on post-fire vertebrate communities through cavity excavation. Journal of Zoology. 296(2): 95-103.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.