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Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Wood?

Woodpeckers have their name for a good reason, they peck wood, and lots of it. Some more than others but they all can be found on trees pecking away. Many people are just used to it and don’t really think to much about it.

Like why do woodpeckers peck wood, or what are they looking for, etc etc. In this article we’ll answer some of those common questions that may seem obvious to some of you but to others they just haven’t really thought much about it.

Why do woodpeckers peck wood?

pileated woodpecker baby in nest
credit: Chris Waits | CC 2.0

Woodpeckers peck for 5 main reasons.

  • To find food – Probably the number one reason that comes to mind is to find food. Usually wood-boring insects and larvae but also tree dwelling insects like ants and beetles.
  • To store food – Woodpeckers commonly peck single holes in wood to store pieces of food, like acorns, that they can come back to later.
  • To make a nest – Woodpeckers nest in holes, they drill out large holes in trees and will raise their young there until they are old enough to fledge and be on their own.
  • To make a sleeping hole – Sometimes woodpeckers will make separate holes just for sleeping.
  • To communicate – This is usually called “drumming”. Woodpeckers do this to attract mates in addition to claiming their territory.

What kind of trees do woodpeckers prefer?

large woodpecker hole

Different species of woodpeckers may drill into different species of trees for various reasons. Including the habitat and regions in which they live and the physical makeup of the woodpecker itself. In general, woodpeckers will peck on a large variety of trees so it’s hard to pin down what their favorites are.

Woodpeckers can commonly be found in both coniferous and deciduous forests. Below is a list of trees that woodpeckers can commonly be seen pecking on whether they are searching for tasty grubs or drilling a hole for a nest.

  • Oak
  • Hickory
  • Beech
  • Pine
  • Maple
  • Ash
  • As well as any dead and decaying tree

How much wood can woodpeckers peck?

The short answer is a lot! Woodpeckers are capable of pecking anywhere between 8-12 thousand times a day at a rate of about 20 pecks per second. I guess the amount of wood that they go through depends on the tree and the type of woodpecker.

I would venture to guess that a Pileated pecking on a soft pine tree all day would do a lot more damage than a Downy pecking on a hardwood all day long.

Here’s a short video showing just how much wood one large Pileated Woodpecker can drill through:

Do woodpeckers peck at night?

Woodpeckers are diurnal, meaning they are active in the day. They do not normally peck on trees for food or drum during the night, perhaps at dusk or dawn. They will sometimes drill out sleeping cavities in trees rather than using their nesting cavities to sleep.

What do woodpeckers eat?

Woodpeckers will eat many different types of food.

  • Wood-boring insects
  • Tree-dwelling insects
  • Suet
  • Berries and fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sap

Why do woodpeckers peck on houses?

There are a few reasons why woodpeckers may be pecking on the side of your house. Most of the time woodpeckers will drum on houses for territorial reasons, to attract a mate or to let other woodpeckers know that they have claimed this area. 

They may actually be drilling for food though, especially if you have a log cabin or wood siding. Basically, they peck on houses for the same reasons they peck on trees.

Why do woodpeckers peck on windows?

You may also been unlucky enough to have a woodpecker pecking on your window. This can get very loud and very annoying. Chances are they are seeing their reflection and seeing it as a threat to their territory.

This window pecking can go on for days, I assume they are going back day after day to check if the opposing woodpecker is still there. I suggest covering the window by putting a non-reflective cover on either the inside or outside for a day or so and see if that gets him to stop.

If you are having woodpecker problems and need to take measures to get them away from your house, Amazon has some options for you to try.