Date: 10/25/18 11:27 am From: Jerry Toll <geritol48...> Subject: [ia-bird] re: saw whets in NE Iowa??
Just saw the string this morning so am about to get my feet wet in this discussion. I believe that saw whets could well be nesting in NE Iowa especially Allamakee County as Ric Zarwell suggests. I agree with Nancy Drilling that they prefer coniferous stands for nesting but I think that is true for their core breeding range. On the periphery, which NE Iowa falls into that category, there are stands of white pines which may encourage nesting and there are plenty of possible nest cavities provided by pileated woodpeckers in the region. Of importance is three requirements for nesting; plenty of mice, a nest cavity or nestbox, and a place for the male to hide in the daytime (dense canopy or cedars). All are available in abundance in NE Iowa. Gene Jacobs put up a number of nestboxes in a few square mile plot of mixed farm and woodlands in Central Wisconsin near Stevens Point and had a number of successful nests in the first year (Journal of Raptor Research published article). Two of Wayne Mollhoff's nestboxes in western Nebraska that had nesting saw-whets were in stream riparian areas (one failed). My thinking is that saw whets are highly opportunistic outside of their core breeding areas. This is an irruptive species that has little fidelity to their breeding and wintering grounds and that likely winters throughout Iowa. The fact that there are no nesting records for Iowa may be primarily due lack of detection. I have put up nestboxes in the Loess Hills of western Iowa with a hope that the theory of opportunism in an appropriate habitat where they are known to winter will eventually yield documented nesting. But it takes time for a willing male to find the nestboxes which is exacerbated in NE Iowa by the abundance of forested areas available to them. This is one way to detect them. Another way is night surveys but this interesting species is also common and doing quite well, thank you, so no money is being thrown at them. Their seemingly erratic behavior, to us humans anyway, doesn't help either. Once you think you get something figured out about them, then they throw you a curve ball.