Why Do Woodpeckers Peck On Trees?

Woodpeckers can be bothersome, but if they are pecking holes in your trees, it usually indicates a far worse problem.

If you think someone clicking a pen repeatedly is bothersome, imagine that sound is amplified and continuous. That's what a woodpecker at work can sound like, and if you've never heard or seen one, count yourself fortunate. Woodpeckers make their distinctive (and noisy!) tapping sound 8,000 to 12,000 times a DAY.

While woodpeckers are beneficial to the ecosystem and are protected by federal and state legislation (remember this if you hear one knocking in the middle of the night), they can also cause damage to your trees, wood siding, or wooden window frames.

There are seven often-seen woodpecker species in our area (listed from smallest, around 7 inches long, to tallest, about a foot tall):

  • Woodpecker with a downy beak.
  • The yellow-bellied sapsucker.
  • Woodpecker with long hair.
  • Woodpecker with a red belly.
  • Woodpecker with a redhead.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker is a type of woodpecker.
  • The northern flicker is a type of flicker.
  • Woodpecker holes are caused by feeding.
  • Woodpecker holes are produced by their foraging for food.

Why do woodpeckers bore holes in trees?

The most prevalent reason woodpeckers use their beaks to make holes in trees is to find food. Woodpeckers consume insect larvae found beneath the surface of tree bark. Some species, such as the yellow-bellied sapsucker, drill into trees to feed on sap and any bugs caught in the sap.

Woodpeckers create significantly more noise in the spring when they employ their drilling sounds to attract a mate and establish their territory. In those cases, they select items for the resonant noises they produce; for example, you may hear one on a metal pole or a metal gutter. Alternatively, they may peck at the same dead limb year after year, or they may begin tapping on your wood siding. This distinct mode of communication, known as "drumming," is employed by both male and female woodpeckers and is most audible (and unpleasant) in the early morning hours.

Woodpeckers will also drill into dead or dying trees in the spring to build nests. While most birds create small holes when feeding (either in a straight line or in no discernible pattern, depending on the species), the hole for nesting is substantially larger.

How does a woodpecker decide which trees to visit?

Pine trees, spruce trees, birch trees, fruit trees, and sweet gums are the most commonly damaged by woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers favor softer wood trees, but if any tree includes wood borers or bark lice insects, they'll drill into it in pursuit of a nice meal.

Any tree that is dead or dying has softer wood and is thus favored for nesting by woodpeckers.

Scientists are still unsure how a woodpecker determines which trees are afflicted with the insects they prefer to consume. Some believe that woodpeckers can detect movement within a tree. (Can you imagine having super-hearing that allows you to hear the movement of a tiny wormlike object? Because woodpeckers are interested in insect larvae, they will hunt for any holes or cracks that the bugs exploited to enter the tree in the first place. Finally, they'll use their tapping abilities to locate the hollow portions of a tree where the larvae are most likely to be found.

Do woodpeckers have any advantages?

As previously said, woodpeckers play a vital role in the ecology. They aid in the control of insect infestations in forests. Woodpeckers, for example, have been observed removing up to 85% of emerald ash borer (EAB) larvae from afflicted ash trees.

Woodpeckers assist in the identification of tree problems in urban and suburban environments. If you notice scattered holes produced by woodpeckers all over the trunk and branches of your tree, it is likely that it is infested or dying. Woodpeckers may also rip bark from trees and distribute it on the ground.

Woodpecker holes do not harm trees on their own. However, the holes make the tree more susceptible to disease and pests.

What do woodpeckers consume?

The larvae of wood-boring insects, such as the emerald ash borer, are preferred by woodpeckers. They will also eat ants, termites, beetles and their larvae, spiders, bird eggs, caterpillars, and other insects. If no bugs are available, they will consume small rodents, lizards, fruit, or nuts. They may also subsist on tree sap, depending on the species.

What should I do if I notice signs of woodpeckers feeding on my tree?

Determine the location of the damage if you've been awoken by the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker. Examine tree trunks and branches, wood siding, fence rails, and anything else made of wood on your property.

If you see any damage to your trees, call us to see if they are infected with a wood-boring bug or another pest. If the holes are straight, it could be a sapsucker, which feeds on sap in healthy plants. In any case, it's essential to have your tree professionally inspected.

Woodpecker damage is not life-threatening to trees, but if not properly treated and cared for, it can cause additional expense and injury over time. Inquire with us about tree health care services to assist your tree in recovering from woodpecker holes.

These intriguing (though bothersome) birds serve as pest detectors for your trees, alerting you to the presence of a larger problem that has to be addressed. The first visible symptom of EAB infection in ash trees, for example, is frequently the holes produced by woodpeckers searching for EAB larvae.

That doesn't mean you want a woodpecker constantly pecking away at your trees. There are numerous woodpecker repellent sprays, netting, and noisemakers on the market today.

Fake owls and the like rarely dissuade woodpeckers since they quickly realize they don't move or pose a hazard. If you use it consistently (for example, smashing pots together to scare them away), noise can be an effective deterrent. Some people have had luck keeping woodpeckers at bay by hanging strips of shimmering Mylar tape.

Woodpeckers are classed as "migratory, nongame birds" and are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, therefore harming or killing one is never an option. While not found in our area, the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) and the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) are both listed as endangered. (Wikipedia)

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