Woodpecker cavity aeration: A predictive model

Amos Ar, Anat Barnea, Yoram Yom-Tov, Cynthia Mersten-Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied characteristics of the Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus) cavities in the field and a laboratory model, and rates of gas exchange in the laboratory. Night temperature of occupied cavities is 4.3°C higher than empty ones, representing energy savings of ∼24%. Oxygen conductance (GNO2) of an empty cavity is 7.1 ml [STPD] (Torr h) -1, and is affected by winds at velocities up to 0.8 m/s. Day and night body temperatures were 42.0 and 40.1°C, respectively. Steady-state O 2 consumption rates (ṀO2) were 3.49 ± 0.49 and 2.53 ± 0.26 ml [STPD] (g h) -1 during day and night respectively - higher than predicted by allometry. A mathematical model describing PO2 in a cavity, taking into consideration ṀO2, GNO2, heat convection and wind speed, from the moment birds inhabit it, was developed. It shows that on the average, one woodpecker staying in its cavity at night does not encounter hypoxic conditions. However, in nest cavities with below the average GNO2, with more inhabitants (e.g. during the breeding season), hypoxia may become a problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-249
Number of pages13
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number2-3 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2004


  • Birds, Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)
  • Cavity-dwelling
  • Environment, confinement
  • Gas exchange, Model, Nest aeration


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