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.

Jerry Toll

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