Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Wood?

why do woodpeckers peck wood

As the name suggests, woodpeckers always seem to be making holes in wood. They can peck up to 12,000 times every day, and when they peck, they have a purpose. Some people think that when they are drilling holes in your home they are simply being a pest, but they will always have a reason for pecking where they do.

Here are the 4 main reasons why a woodpecker pecks wood.

1. Food

One of the main reasons is to find food. Woodpeckers like suet and nuts, but they also feed off insects, insect eggs and larvae, and these are often found in and under the wood on a tree.

Where there are gaps in the bark, the woodpecker can peck and easily get to the food underneath. If there is no gap in the wood, their incredible hearing means they can actually hear the insects moving underneath the wood. This means they know exactly where to start pecking. Woodpeckers are particularly drawn to the larvae of carpenter and woodpecker bees and grass bagworms.

If you see a woodpecker pecking wood on your house or pecking your fence posts, they are most likely looking for food. If you have cladding on your house or eaves, these birds can hear if there is food under them, so they will peck until they get to it.

2. Nesting

Woodpeckers carve holes in trees to make nests ready for the breeding season. They prefer older trees, oaks and pines but they can make a nest in any wood if it is big enough. They will keep pecking until they have a space large enough, and it can take between 10 and 28 days until the hole is carved out. They usually build their nests during April and May and the male and female woodpeckers will work together to build it , with the size of the hole ranging from 1.25” round to 3.75” and 3.25” wide.

Some woodpeckers will build a nest just a few feet from the ground, while others will build them up to 60 feet off the ground.

3. Territory

If you hear a woodpecker making a drumming noise, this means he is letting others know that this is his territory. Before the breeding season he drums on wood to attract a mate and let them know he is building a nest there. This drumming can also be used to warn other male birds away.

To attract a mate the male woodpecker first drums on wood and then carries out some acrobatic includes flight rituals. Males can be very aggressive during this period and can threaten one another.

4. Storing food

Some woodpeckers like to create holes to store their food in.

The Acorn Woodpecker is one example of this. They peck hundreds of holes, just the size of an acorn, and put one fresh acorn in to each one. Unfortunately they’re just as likely to create these holes in your house as they are to make them in a tree.

acorn woodpecker

Once you realize why a woodpecker is pecking, it can be fascinating to watch them. If you have old trees or older branches, these are an excellent place for woodpeckers to peck, and if you can encourage them to nest, you can enjoy watching the younger birds as they grow.

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