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Downy Woodpeckers Drumming

1-24-13 downy woodpecker3 IMG_7588Non-vocal communication between birds of the same species has become apparent in the last week or so — downy woodpeckers have started to hammer out bursts of steady staccato drum beats on nearby trees. Both male and female woodpeckers drum year round, but they do so most intensively from January to May, especially during the courtship and early nesting season which begin in March. Woodpeckers drum for a variety of reasons: defending territory, attracting a mate, maintaining contact with a mate, signaling readiness for copulation and summoning a mate from a distance. Woodpecker pairs do engage in duet drumming , which is thought to play a role in nest site selection and in promoting and maintaining the bond between mates.

5 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    Do the small woodpeckers drum only for communication, or do they also drum to find food?

    January 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    • They drill for insects in trees, but it is a very different, irregular pecking sound, not a rapidly repeated drum roll!

      January 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  2. Beth Henderson

    They’re marching to a different drummer these days!

    January 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  3. Colleen Katsuki

    Hi Mary,

    Do hairy wood peckers drum?

    Colleen Katsuki

    January 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    • Yes they do, Colleen, as do pileateds and yellow-bellied sapsuckers (the latter sounds a bit like it’s tapping out the Morse code — the louder it is, the more they like it, apparently, as they often seek out metal surfaces to drum on!)

      January 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

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