Whole Lot of Pecking Going On
I share my backyard with woodpeckers — lots of them. I’ve got downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers perpetually pecking at my peanut suet. And every morning and evening, a pair of northern flickers drill away at the suet feeders in sync.
Hubby got within 50 feet and shared a few rare moments with a pileated woodpecker drumming on a rotting tree in our front yard. He said it looked just like Woody Woodpecker with his big, bright-red plumage sticking out haphazardly from his head.
Woodpeckers make no vocal songs. Instead, they drum on resonant objects — hollow trees and logs, utility poles and rain gutters — to attract mates, establish territories and communicate.
Both males and females drum.
When drilling for food, woodpeckers strike at up to 12mph. They peck or drum up to 20 times per second for 8,000 to 12,000 pecks per day. They bang their heads into wood at a force 1,000 times that of gravity.
Air pockets and skulls insulated with a thick, spongy bone help cushion and protect their brains.
Woodpeckers have bristle-like feathers over their nostrils to keep from inhaling wood particles.
Woodpeckers’ greatest threat is no particular predator, but habitat loss and insecticide use.
“Woodpeckers, especially the pileated, need large tracts of land to breed,” says Julie Curd, owner of Wild Bird Center of Annapolis. “They need all three levels, from the ground to the tree’s canopy, to thrive and survive.”
Curd agrees that the pileated woodpecker most resembles Woody.
But the verdict’s still out.
Some ornithologists say he’s an acorn woodpecker. Others claim he’s a hybrid between an acorn and an ivory-billed woodpecker.
Artist Ben ‘Bugs’ Hardaway, who created Woody in 1940, said he was not a distinct species.
Which is more like Woody?