Cardinal woodpeckers have a very distinctive call; a “chittering rattle” as described by one of South Africa’s more prominent bird books.
It is often heard when out in the bush, but the consistency from which the call was coming from a tree near the prominent hyena den in the North, gave rangers enough reason to investigate with their binoculars, which led to the exciting discovery of a nest.
A woodpecker nest is not the rarest thing to find; simply by observing the behaviour of an individual during the breeding season, one can discover where a pair have made their hole in a tree. The great thing about this nest was how low it was, when more often than not the nest cavity – which is excavated by both the male and female – is high up in a tree and not easy to observe.
Ranger John Mohaud captured this fantastic series of shots of the male feeding one of the chicks:
Cardinal Woodpecker chicks generally stay in the nest for just under a month, and will disperse one or two months after fledging. We don’t know exactly how many chicks were in this nest, but most clutches hold two (up to three can be laid).
Nest holes are seldom reused apparently, so it is unlikely we will be seeing this pair nesting here again, but given how small the woodpeckers are and how territorial they are, it is certainly not inconceivable that we could see these two raising chicks again in the future, somewhere close by. Let’s hope their next nest is just as low…