Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Kimberly A. Sullivan


Kimberly A. Sullivan


Teresa J. Lorenz


Karen M. Kapheim


Woodpeckers create nesting cavities for other birds and animals in forests. This creates dynamic interactions between both woodpeckers and these other animals. Using video cameras, we documented direct behavioral interactions between nesting woodpeckers and other animals in the Eastern Washington Cascades during the 2015 and 2016 breeding seasons. Additionally, we offered 937 students in a General Biology laboratory course to participate in this original research opportunity and described and the impact the experience had on the participants as well as the researchers.

In 2015, Western Blubebirds took over two active Black-backed Woodpecker nests by physically attacking the woodpeckers. In 2016, almost half of the woodpecker nests were reused by other animals, with Western Bluebirds being are most common SCU. We found that some nests we reused within minutes to hours of vacancy. However, we were not able to significantly predict nest reuse or the presence of other animals at the nest. Parent woodpeckers towards avian cavity nesters when compared to rodent, predators, and other woodpeckers. Our fine-scale analysis provides a new window into behavioral interactions at woodpecker nests and same-season nest reuse, but it is limited by its scope. Thus, we suggest for larger-scale video studies examining behavioral interactions around the nest.

About 15% of students in the course participated in our research, and we found that students accurately recorded data approximately 90% of the time. Most students came away from the experience with a more positive attitude towards undergraduate research and were able to restate the main research question. However, many students had difficulty understanding their role as a data collector. We suggest making the experience mandatory to include all students and placing a greater emphasis on the process of science.