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Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Trees – Explained In Detail!

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Woodpeckers are cute birds. Woodpeckers might be bothersome at times, but if they are pecking holes in your trees, it typically indicates a far worse problem.

If you think someone clicking a pen over and over is uncomfortable, imagine that sound amplified and continuous.

That’s what a woodpecker at work may sound like, and if you’re one of the few who hasn’t heard or seen one, you are so lucky! Woodpeckers create their signature (and noisy!) tapping sound 8,000 to 12,000 times each day.

So why do woodpeckers peck trees? Everything you need to know lies in our article with only a few minutes of reading.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Trees?

Woodpeckers peck into trees for food or to make a nesting place. They also “drum,” or peck in quick rhythmic succession, to mark their territory and attract mates. 

Drumming is most common in the spring on resonant metal or wood surfaces. It might happen several times in a single day and continue for days or months.

The majority of woodpeckers spend the entire year in the same place. They are tenacious and will not be easily driven away from their established territory.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Trees

How Do Woodpeckers Peck Continuously Without Injuring Themselves?

Woodpeckers have interesting physiology that is quite different from other birds. Let’s have a look at some unique features that make up the body of a woodpecker.

  • The reason why woodpeckers can grip themselves firmly onto the side of a tree is that they have two forward toes and two backward toes. In addition, they have strong tail feathers to help them balance when pecking.
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  • Furthermore, woodpeckers have a muscle called a “shock absorber” at the rear of their jaw. It means that they can keep tapping on the wood without receiving a concussion. In fact, an average woodpecker can easily peck 10,000 times a day without getting hurt.
  • Their skull is a crisscross of bones with plenty of space in between. This part of the bird acts like a sponge, expanding and contracting with each tapping motion.
  • Their long tongue is composed of nine tiny bones that form a Y shape. This enables them to stretch their tongues far into a tree’s crack to collect insects hidden inside the tree trunk.
  • Finally, woodpeckers have bristles that cover their noses. These prevent the birds from inhaling any wood chips while pecking away.

How Do Woodpeckers Know Exactly What Trees To Go To?

Pine trees, spruce trees, birch trees, fruit trees, and sweet gums are the most commonly damaged by woodpeckers.

A woodpecker prefers trees with softer wood, but if any tree with wood borers or bark lice insects, they will drill into it in search of a good meal.

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Any tree that is dead or dying has softer wood and is thus favored for nesting by woodpeckers.

Scientists are still unclear how a woodpecker determines which trees are infected with the insects they love to feed on. However, some believe that woodpeckers can detect the insect’s movement within a tree.

Because woodpeckers are interested in a larval form of insects, they will seek any holes or cracks that the bugs used to reach inside the tree in the first place. Finally, they’ll use their tapping abilities to locate the hollow areas of a tree, where the larvae are most likely to be found.

How To Prevent Damages To Trees Caused By Woodpeckers?

For the most part, woodpecker damage to trees is not very destructive, but it can produce wounds by which diseases and insects can enter and harm the tree.

In severe cases of woodpecker holes in trees, the tree trunk or branch may become girdled, resulting in the death of the area above the girdled bark.

If you have timber structures in your yard or wood siding on your house, you might want to keep woodpeckers away from them. You may try to apply these ways to keep the woodpeckers away from them.

  1. Inspect your buildings for insects and remove any using a chemical or a natural approach. Also, seal any holes or openings that insects could use to establish their nests.
  2. Repair any woodpecker holes you find. Be alert so that you can stop woodpeckers from pecking before they can cause any harm. An appropriate patching material can be used to repair gaps in the wood. You may also use aluminum flashing or quarter-inch wire mesh to cover the area.
  3. If you want to safeguard your healthy trees, consider lightly wrapping some hardware cloth or burlap around the tree where probable holes are.
  4. Leave one or two unhealthy trees alone so that the woodpeckers can concentrate only on those trees.
  5. Use various decoys to scare away woodpeckers, such as plastic owls or snakes. The ones with flashing eyes that are powered by the sun appear to be the most effective.
scarecrow Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Trees

Tips For Repairing Damage Caused By Woodpeckers

Examine the damage carefully before attempting to fix woodpecker holes in trees. First, determine whether or whether the tree has been damaged and, if so, how severe the damage is.

Remember that simply seeing a woodpecker pecking on a tree does not imply that there will be any harm.

After determining the type of woodpecker tree damage you have, you may design a repair strategy. If the damage is minor (a few holes an inch (2.5 cm.) or smaller), the best thing you can do for your tree is let it alone.

Filling up these holes can trap disease against the wound in the tree. It might lead to a terrible, unwanted outcome.  To reduce the risk of infection from entering the woodpecker holes, apply a fungicide and allow the wounds to heal naturally.

Check the damaged part regularly until it has fully healed, and treat instantly if you see insect activity or rot. For bigger woodpecker holes in trees or several holes in a tree, apply fungicide and cover the damage with hardware cloth (galvanized mesh).

galvanized mesh Why Do Woodpeckers Peck Trees

PS Direct Hardware Cloth – 36 inch x 10 Foot with 1/8 Inch Galvanized mesh via

You might consider using small bolts to secure the hardware cloth to the tree. Only use the mesh to cover the damaged area, not surround the tree.

Going all the way around the tree might be harmful to its growth. While the tree recovers, the mesh will keep animals out and protect the tree from any further harm.

Final Thoughts

You have made it to the final words of our article on “why do woodpeckers peck wood?”

Woodpeckers seem to have a poor reputation since they are thought to be highly destructive. They are, however, a natural part of the ecosystem and are helpful to have around to help reduce wood-boring insects.

Plus, if you have the chance, they’re pretty gorgeous and exciting for a bird-watching tour.  Remember, there are three main reasons why woodpeckers peck at wood: to look for food, construct their nest, and exclaim their territory.

In addition, you may try our suggested methods to prevent any possible damages that woodpeckers might cause to the trees.

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