Even if you’ve never seen a woodpecker, you’ve probably heard them. As their name suggests, they make their presence known and obvious by routinely drilling their beaks into wood in search of food and to attract mates. Their pecking can often become a nuisance due to volume and frequency, and because of the amount of property damage it can cause. But despite their often annoying behaviors, woodpeckers are fascinating creatures.
Woodpeckers vary greatly in size and color. Most woodpeckers have red coloring somewhere on their heads, and many have black and white coloring on their bodies. Depending on species, they can be 6-18 inches long. Their beaks are sharp and pointed in order to bore as effectively as possible into wood. They have two short legs with two long, pointed toes each, and their stiff back feathers are used for support. However, the way that they’re most commonly identified is when they are seen balancing on a wooden structure like a tree or an electrical pole, boring into it in order to find food.
There are several species of woodpecker that can be found in many parts of the United States (particularly in forested areas, parks, and suburbs). They include:
- Downy woodpeckers
- Hairy woodpeckers
- Pileated woodpeckers
- Red-bellied woodpeckers
Behaviors and Characteristics
Woodpeckers primarily bore into wooden structures in order to find insects like carpenter ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. Along with these insects, woodpeckers will often eat fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, and suet from bird feeders.
Certain woodpeckers can drill holes large and deep enough to fit an acorn. For this reason, many of them can do a great deal of damage to homes and structures that are made of wood, especially if the structure is left vacant for an extended period of time.
Woodpeckers also “drum” with their beaks to communicate and attract mates. They often drum on objects and structures that will make significant or echoing noise, such as gutters, vents, metal siding, drain pipes, chimney caps, and roof vents. This drumming can occur for an extended period of time and for weeks at a time. Besides causing the annoyance of a continuous noise, this behavior can also cause significant damage to the structure.
Mating and Nesting
Mated woodpeckers usually build nests inside dead wood cavities in trees and other wooden structures. Some may be attracted to bird houses, but others prefer to create their own nests. Woodpeckers may also enlarge a dead wood cavity in order to settle inside it. Depending on the species, woodpeckers can lay 3-8 white eggs at once, and some have up to two broods per year. The young hatch after 12-30 days (again, depending on species), and are completely dependent on their parents for food for the first two to four weeks of their lives. After that, the young will leave their nests to begin lives of their own.
Woodpeckers are a federally protected bird, and pest control techniques used for removing them must follow federal regulations. They cannot be dealt with in the same ways as other pest birds. Woodpeckers are also stubborn birds that don’t move easily from their homes. Therefore, the only people who can remove them from your property are trained pest control professionals. If you have a woodpecker problem near your home or business, contact us today for a free inspection!