Strong claws, short legs and stiff tail feathers enable woodpeckers to climb tree trunks and use their sharp bills to chisel out insects for food, make nest holes and drum territorial signals to rivals.
Second to the ivory-billed woodpecker, the pileated woodpecker is the largest commonly seen in North America. This perched bird is almost entirely black on its back and wings. A white chin and dark bill put the finishing touches on its distinguished look.
Preferring dense, mature forest, it seems to be adapting well to human encroachment, becoming more common and tolerant of disturbed habitats — so that very well could be the “rat-a-tat-tat” you hear at your front door.
In woodlands or your backyard you can listen for its slow, resounding hammering. If it’s nearby, look up, follow the sound and you’ll probably be able to spot its pointed, blood-red capped head on the side of a tree, leaving a long rectangular or oval hole. Carpenter ants in fallen trees and stumps are its major food source.
The tongue of the woodpecker is long, usually with barbed tips, so it can be thrust out to spear an insect and draw it out of its hiding place in the wood. The tongue is coated with sticky saliva that helps it gather small insects like ants, but they also eat berries, fruits and nuts.
You might say their diet consists of protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates and grains, which means low fat and natural sugars. Maybe we humans should adapt a woodpecker diet. But I don’t think that’s what my husband means when he says I eat like a bird at dinner time.
Larger holes can be found for nesting. Fine chips of wood form at the bottom of the hole to cushion the eggs. When hatched, the young are featherless.
Red-bellied woodpeckers look like zebras in flight with their black-and-white barred backs. The male has red on his crown and nape. Females only have red on their necks, but both have a reddish patch on their belly, thus the name red-bellied woodpecker. They are common in open woodlands and parks.
The red-headed woodpecker is definitely colorful, sporting an entire head of dark red plumage contrasting with a blue-black back and snowy white underside. It inhabits open woods, farmlands, parks and backyards, foraging tree trunks and the ground for insects, berries and acorns. It will utilize any vacant cavity in a fence post, dead tree or even an electric pole to store acorns for the winter.
My hanging bird feeder serves as a quick snack stop for numerous red-bellied woodpeckers, red-headed woodpeckers and even the small white-breasted nuthatch, a short-tailed acrobatic bird that looks very similar to a woodpecker the way it hangs upside down on the bird feeder and scales a tree trunk.
When you check out the rapping at your front door and find no one there, it could be that a woodpecker was making a visit. Now, if they start ringing the doorbell, well, I don’t know about that!
About Pigeon Patrol:
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
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