High Stakes Drama Over a Woodpecker and a Starling at Regency Park, a Luxury Retirement Community, Located in Vero Beach, Florida.


Red-Bellied Woodpecker


Several weeks ago a Red-Bellied Woodpecker began pecking away at the top of a villa’s make believe chimney.  The chimney has cement on the outside and styrofoam on the inside. You could hear the pecking all over the campus.  It was like a jack hammer.

The resident asked one of the maintenance people what the Woodpecker was doing, who said “it is building a villa.”

Well then, the question remained, was it going to be a two or three bedroom?

Once the Woodpecker broke through the cement it hit the styrofoam and from then on it was like a winter wonderland, with small pieces of styrofoam coming down like snow.

snow flakes

First snowfall

Then came the drama, because shortly thereafter a Starling showed up and began pacing above the Woodpecker’s villa.  A few days later, perhaps after the Woodpecker’s villa received it’s Certificate of Occupancy (COA), the Starling evicted the Woodpecker and moved in.

villa 1 better

Villa No. One

What was the Woodpecker to do?

A day or two later, it started building a new villa in a neighboring chimney.  Once again, would it be a two or three bedroom?  And with all the styrofoam, snow banks were being created.

villa 2

Villa No. Two

Sure enough, the Starling flew over to the new villa and once again began pacing.  Then when the woodpecker received its COA for this new villa the Starling again evicted the Woodpecker and moved in.  So the Woodpecker returned to the first villa to finish furnishing it.

But the Starling didn’t like that either, because it wanted both villas; and flew over and kicked the Woodpecker out of Villa No. 1 and moved in again.  Then the Woodpecker went back to the second villa.

You can imagine these two birds flying back and forth and crabbing at each other.  There never seemed to be any fighting.  Just threats of litigation.

Now it seems, they have had a summit and negotiated a peace treaty because the Woodpecker has settled into the first villa and the Starling is in the second.

It must be that the villas were one bedrooms because even though there were snow banks there was never enough styrofoam to hire a plow.  Who has a snow plow in Florida, anyway?

We contacted the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) in Vero Beach and spoke to a naturalist to get her take on the drama.

We learned that Starlings are not native to the United States.  Did you know they were brought here in 1890 and 1891 and 100 were released in New York City by a Shakespeare enthusiast who wanted North America to have every bird that Shakespeare had referred to in his writings?  That individual surely adored Shakespeare.

They are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds.

Actually, the full name is European Starling


As it turns out, according to http://www.sialis.org, “Starlings are non-native invasive species and are not protected by The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means that U.S. federal law allows humane destruction of adults, nests, eggs, and young. You should never allow a starling to use a nest box, as they will aggressively evict other native birds and may attack their eggs and young.

So there you go. That explains the drama at Regency Park.

Additionally, according to the ELC naturalist, Starlings are inclined to lay their eggs in other bird’s apartments, condos, houses and villas.  In the case of Regency Park, that’s because the Starling didn’t have the pecking power to build it’s own villa.

Then the other bird, in who’s nest the Starling laid it’s eggs, who might think that the eggs are their own, has to do the heavy lifting to hatch and feed the babies.

This is particularly problematic if the Starling lays it’s eggs in a Warbler’s home because the Warblers are so small.  If they realize the eggs are not their own, they are apt to build another nest on top of them because they, the Warblers, are too small to push them out of the nest.

If they don’t realize they are not their own, after the eggs hatch, the Warbler has to work twice as hard to feed them because they are twice as big.  This ultimately would hurt the Warbler.

In this regard, Starlings are similar to a Brown Headed Cowbird.  According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the Brown-headed Cowbird is North America’s most common ‘brood parasite.’  A female cowbird makes no nest of her own, but instead lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. Brown-headed Cowbird’s lay eggs in the nests of more than 220 species of birds.


Brown Headed Cowbird

So, the drama seems to have died down at Regency Park.  There was a time when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to visit and intervene.  But that trip has been delayed, for now.


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