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Data for: Nest cavity reuse by the cooperatively breeding Acorn Woodpecker

Cite this dataset

Koenig, Walter (2021). Data for: Nest cavity reuse by the cooperatively breeding Acorn Woodpecker [Dataset]. Dryad.


Although primary cavity-nesting species are capable of excavating new cavities, they often reuse old ones. To determine potential factors driving such reuse, we studied nest-cavity reuse in the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), a cooperative breeding species that reuses old cavities for 57.2% of nests at Hastings Reservation in central coastal California, USA. We found no evidence for significant fitness costs or benefits of cavity reuse compared to using newly constructed cavities. In contrast, several lines of evidence supported a role for constraints on both cavity reuse and on new cavity construction. The main constraint on reuse was cavities failing to survive from one year to the next, usually because the limb fell apart, filled with water, or was usurped by another species. Evidence that constraints on new cavity construction may be important included more frequent cavity reuse when groups renested and use of artificial cavities when they were experimentally provided. Nest-cavity reuse in this population appears to be driven primarily by constraints, including the energetic costs and time required to excavate a new cavity, rather than fitness consequences, even though Acorn Woodpeckers regularly excavate small holes in trees for acorn storage and the energetic costs of new cavity construction are apparently insufficient to significantly depress reproductive success. Constraints play a significant role in cavity reuse and may affect both the intraspecific and interspecific frequency of cavity reuse among facultative excavating species.


There are 3 datasets. 

ACWOnestmain.xls has data for each cavity for each time it was used for nesting.

ACWOgroupcav.xls was used to test whether reusing an old nest was beneficial or not the next year

ACWOnestsurv.xls was used to conduct survival analyses on the nest cavities

Usage notes

See ReadMe.doc file