Wood­pecker drum­ming

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A - Elis­a­beth Char­man

1 WHY DO WOODIES DRUM?

For the same rea­sons that birds sing: to es­tab­lish ter­ri­to­ries and at­tract mates. In the UK, the great spot­ted wood­pecker is the one you’re most likely to hear – it has a strong, fast drum of 6–20 strikes per se­cond that can be heard up to 500m away. The lesser spot­ted wood­pecker has a longer, qui­eter, more rapid drum, rem­i­nis­cent of a drill when heard from a dis­tance. Green wood­peck­ers rarely drum, but when they do, the sound is softer and longer.

2 HOW DOES IT NOT HURT?

Wood­peck­ers have var­i­ous adap­ta­tions that pre­vent them from sus­tain­ing in­jury from drum­ming. They have thicker skulls with air pock­ets that cush­ion their brains, strong neck mus­cles that al­low them to ham­mer away for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, and thick, straight bills that can with­stand the im­pact of the re­peated strikes. The birds also have a coat­ing of stiff bris­tles at the base of the bill, thought to pro­tect their eyes and nos­trils from fly­ing de­bris. Wood­pecker drum­ming can be heard all year round, but is most in­tense be­tween late Jan­uary and late April.

3 DO THEY DRUM ANY­THING OTHER THAN TREES?

Trees com­prised of dead, hard wood are most sought af­ter for drum­ming, as their res­o­nance al­lows the sound to carry far and wide. In­di­vid­u­als can get quite at­tached to their favourite sound­ing posts. But wood­peck­ers have been known to use al­ter­na­tive sites, such as tele­graph or flag poles. In the USA, the birds even drum on houses, caus­ing so much dam­age that an en­tire in­dus­try ex­ists to keep them at bay.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.