April 12, 2011

Listen for the drumming of woodpeckers

During this spring season of courtship and home building woodpeckers are using every auditory skill to let themselves be known. Both male and female woodpeckers “drum” on trees with their bill, mentally unharmed thanks to carefully timed muscle contractions and a malleable skull. Woodpeckers peck at trees for many reasons, digging bugs and larvae from under the bark, hollowing out a nest cavity in a rotted trunk, or as a loud, non-vocal call used to define territory, locate a mate, and perhaps challenge a foe. In this spring season listen for the short, fast burst of the Downy and Hairy woodpeckers’ drum call. Usually lasting but a second or two, this is not the ongoing jack hammer of nest site excavation, just a quick buzz of beak on wood. With patience and a lack of wind a response can often be heard tapped from further in the woods or across the park. The clear, tonal sound of the drum is no happy accident. Woodpeckers have a favorite drumming limb, often perfectly aged, partially hollow, and high in the sky. Listen for the quick drum and look for these branches as they are often revisited throughout the days and months of spring.

No comments:

bio and contact

My photo
is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

Schedule Alex for a field trip, lecture or classroom visit

Enter your email address to receive notifcations when new posts are published:

Delivered by FeedBurner