Why Do Woodpeckers Peck At Trees – The Mystery Resolved!

Last Updated on October 17, 2021 by Guillermina

Wondering why do woodpeckers peck at trees? Our latest bird feature is aimed precisely at answering that very question, plus some helpful tips!

Woodpeckers are intriguing birds. While most birds like to sing songs, the woodpeckers have a different style. As their name indicates, they like to peck wood. If you happen to visit wooded areas during spring or fall, you might see one rapping away on a tree.

Now, why do woodpeckers peck wood? Well, there can be several reasons for that. Let’s find out more about this peculiar habit.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck At Trees – Three Main Reasons

There are three main reasons why you might see a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. So, why do woodpeckers peck at trees? This is how they feed, communicate, and make nests.

Reason 1 – Food Source

The primary source of nutrition of most woodpeckers is wood-boring insects. While they also feed on fruits, berries, and even nuts, they are natural predators of bugs inside trees.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck At Trees

Their method of reaching the grub is unique. Woodpeckers drill tree bark to earn their meal. By rapidly pecking at the wood, they form holes. Their long tongue helps them reach the bugs hidden deep inside the wood.
Some species of woodpeckers, such as the sapsuckers, feed on tree sap as well. They drill rows of small holes to extract the fluid.

Certain species peck at trees to form cavities to store nuts. The Acorn woodpecker is known to hoard acorns in the holes they drill. They, along with some other species, create their winter food supply in this manner.

Reason 2 – Communication

Another reason for woodpecker hammering is communication. While most birds sing when claiming territories or attracting mates, the woodpeckers like to tap trees and even complement this rhythm with their calls.

If you ever spot a woodpecker that’s simply pecking and not feasting, you might want to know then why do woodpeckers peck at trees?

 do woodpeckers damage trees
This pecking style is a method unique to woodpeckers, known as ‘drumming.’ Woodpeckers tap resonant objects in a robust and rapid rhythm. This distinct behavior not only attracts potential mates but also establishes their territory.

Within a day, woodpeckers may peck up to a whopping 12000 times. Some species, such as the Downy woodpecker, can tap 16 times in one second! You need not worry about their little heads when they hammer. Woodpeckers have a unique head structure that protects them from harm when they drill and drum.

You’ll mostly find the birds drumming during the spring season, and this is when they begin nesting. If your house is a victim of their performance, you might ask yourself, ‘why do woodpeckers peck on my house?’

It’s likely because these drummers have found a surface that amplifies their knocking. Materials with this quality often attract woodpeckers.
Some birds, however, might peck your house to create holes. They can store food in these for winter or even make nests during the breeding season.

Reason 3 – Building Nests

The third main reason why woodpeckers peck at trees is to build nests. Besides feeding and communication, they make nests by drilling cavities in trees. They create their nesting sites in the wood and follow it with rhythmic drumming. This is a dual-purpose action. Woodpeckers keep rival birds away by noisily marking their territory. At the same time, they attract mates to their newly furnished home.

 why do woodpeckers peck on my house

As it is a seasonal reproductive behavior, this can go on for weeks and months. Where woodpeckers are natives, this behavior can be pretty disturbing. Woodpeckers tend to become stubborn once they’ve marked their territory, and driving them out is definitely not an easy task. You can either endure them for this time period or follow some temporary solutions.

If they’ve already drilled holes near or on your house, start by filling them in and painting them. Doing so might scare them off for some time. On the other hand, if the birds drum on metal surfaces, such as your chimney caps or windowpanes, you can cover them with padding of foam or plastic. Once the birds realize there’s no sound resonating, they won’t be tempted to try out the surfaces again.

To simply keep them away from your area, know that things that move or are reflective deter woodpeckers. Suspended objects that flutter with the wind or even strips of aluminum foil can help achieve this goal.

If you’re wondering do woodpeckers damage trees with this odd behavior, a quick answer is no. They’re likely pecking at wood that wasn’t healthy in the first place.

Do WoodPeckers Peck At Healthy Trees

When woodpeckers peck on wood for food, it’s because they can detect the insects tunneling inside it. Unhealthy trees are home to great colonies of pests, and that’s why woodpeckers often go for fallen or rotting trees.

Even during nesting season, they prefer making homes out of dead trees. Healthy trees, on the other hand, can bear some drillings by woodpeckers. In rare cases, such as with sapsuckers, they may make numerous holes to reach the sap. Constant drilling can be hazardous for the tree. You can prevent further damage if you wrap the bark with a thick cloth or a plastic sheet.

Unhealthy trees may already be under stress from disease and pest infestations. This can be due to wood-boring insects and their larvae. Even ant invasions, such as the carpenter ants, can ruin trees.

Woodpeckers are a natural way of controlling the population of such insects, and they are their primary predators and a reliable indicator of their presence. However, if this behavior of the birds is bothersome, you can stop it by controlling the pest colonies, and start by destroying the nests of these insects.

You can use pesticides, as well as seal any holes or openings they might have made. If they don’t detect any insects, the woodpeckers won’t come searching for food. Still, ensure whatever you use to control the pest population isn’t a health risk for the woodpeckers.

In certain parks, woodpeckers act as an early warning sign. If a tree is infested with a pest, such as the emerald ash borer, woodpeckers will arrive to feed on them. Such trees can weaken and fall over, so park managers immediately remove them to prevent fatal incidents.

Read more about Woodpeckers In East Tennessee – Here’s How To Tell Them Apart


We’re hoping you’re in a better place to understand the woodpecker species’ strange peckish behavior after reading our article. More often than not, these birds are harmless because they tend to only go after trees rotting from the inside. If you’re concerned about dealing with noise pollution, you can resort to bird-friendly repellents like plastic ribbons or even CDs to keep them away from your home.

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