In the concrete jungle of a crowded city, a loud drumming noise is probably indicative of construction work taking place. But high up in the trees of a forested area, it is more likely to be the sound of a woodpecker. Although many see them as an annoying pest, these arboreal drilling machines are actually very interesting.
Woodpeckers are beautifully plumed birds that have a reputation for being ruthless borers. They will hammer away at trees in search of food and also as a form of communication. A few woodpecker species will even feast on tree sap and any insects caught in it. Others will make small holes to unearth insect larvae hidden just beneath a tree’s bark. Often these larvae are pests that threaten the trees. Hence, some woodpeckers are known as “tree doctors,” since their huge appetite can actually help save the trees. Problems arise when woodpeckers go after things like the wood that makes up our homes, aluminum siding, and stucco. Their constant hammering in the early hours of dawn can drive even the most patient person insane, and also cause considerable damage to property.
Fortunately, woodpeckers mostly stick to trees, which make for very convenient homes and nesting sites for them. They will hammer away to create large holes that can offer protection from the elements. Their hammering is not just to fill their bellies or make homes, though. It also has another use: communication. Male and female birds use their pecking to communicate with each other and alert others that they are seeking a mate. After attracting a female, the male bird will perform a mating dance. The female bird then decides if the fellow is a good match for her. Watch out for these beautiful birds next time you’re in a forest!