What wood­peck­ers do

If you’re an avid bird­watcher, these are the be­hav­iours to look out for

World of Animals - - All About Woodpeckers -

Trunk tap­ping

The most fa­mous wood­pecker pas­time is drilling holes in wood. This ac­tion serves two very im­por­tant func­tions. First, it al­lows the wood­pecker to ac­cess in­sects em­bed­ded in the tree trunk and opens up a sup­ply of tree sap. It also pro­vides wood­peck­ers with safe tree hol­lows in which to nest.

Coded com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Wood­peck­ers lack the com­plex mu­si­cal abil­i­ties of song­birds, so they use their heads in­stead. Each species has its own unique se­quence of drum­ming sounds that con­specifics can recog­nise. Banded wood­peck­ers use this to keep track of one an­other, as it’s im­por­tant to stay in touch when mat­ing sea­son ar­rives.

Food ser­vice

These birds aren’t kiss­ing; this is an adult bird feed­ing its baby. Young wood­peck­ers progress rapidly, and this is partly due to the ded­i­cated care of both par­ents. Each year the bird pairs only have one clutch of eggs, mean­ing they put in as much ef­fort as pos­si­ble to keep them happy and healthy enough to sur­vive.

Spring clean­ing

Any carpenter will know that work­ing with wood cre­ates a great deal of mess. All of that ex­cess bark has to go some­where, and this black wood­pecker has a sim­ple so­lu­tion: drop it out of the win­dow. This is an im­por­tant task as it’s im­per­a­tive for the nest to stay clean for the sake of the chicks.

Cac­tus-hop­ping

Gila wood­peck­ers are most at home on the spiky plants of the Amer­i­can desert, even us­ing their beaks to build holes into the cac­tus’ stem. The hole is left to dry for sev­eral months while the wood­peck­ers tend to dam­aged or dis­eased parts of the cac­tus, thereby main­tain­ing the plant’s health.

In­sect ex­ter­mi­na­tion

Not all wood­peck­ers spend their time in trees; they’ll go wher­ever they can find in­sects to eat. The Euro­pean green wood­pecker lives most of its life on the ground gob­bling up ants, which are plen­ti­ful in num­ber. The birds don’t lay their eggs on the soil, how­ever, and may even choose the very tops of trees to stay safe.

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