Cavities Can be a Good Thing

[MAR2021] A longtime friend was visiting this past weekend and caught some great photos during their stay, including this one of a woodpecker peeking out of a hole in an old Elm tree.

Most likely a Hairy Woodpecker, but could have been a Downy Woodpecker. Difficult to tell seeing it in the hole.

Cavities can indeed be a good thing… when they’re in a tree anyhow. It’s all part of the amazing natural order of things. Sometimes the cavities happen gradually as a result of the tree rotting out due to age or disease. Or it might be that the tree has become home to ants or insect larvae and woodpeckers start their work foraging for a feast and, in the process, creating cavities (rectangular-ish holes are usually made by the large Pilleated Woodpecker).

Look carefully and you will see a porcupine arm on the upper right of opening.

These cavities are used by a variety of birds and mammals as great ready-made habitat. I harvest mainly dead trees for firewood but avoid those with cavities or large trees with the likely potential to become cavity trees, in order to maximize habitat diversity and quantity. The tree in my friend’s picture above is a large Sugar Maple which has been rotting out at its core for years, creating an ever-enlarging cavity to the point it is now like a multi-level condo! I went into my own photo archives and found pictures of this same cavity in 2011: