Biology & Behavior
Woodpeckers are 7 to 15 inches long and have short legs, sharp clawed toes, and a stiff tail. Most woodpeckers feed on wood boring insects, vegetable matter, berries, or tree sap. The Northern flicker, which is responsible woodpecker damage to Utah homes, can be identified in flight by a yellow or reddish tint under the wing and tail feathers. The hairy, downy, three toed, and Lewis’s woodpecker and the red-naped and Williamson’s sapsucker occasionally cause problems in Utah.
Red-headed Woodpeckers give all kinds of chirps, cackles, and other raucous calls. Their most common call is a shrill, hoarse tchur, like a Red-bellied Woodpecker’s but higher-pitched and less rolling. When chasing each other they make shrill charr-charr notes.
Red-headed Woodpeckers drum on trees, utility poles, tin roofs, stovepipes, or the sides of houses to drive away territorial intruders. Drumming includes a two-part hammering sound, as well as a staccato roll somewhat like that of a Downy Woodpecker (with one-second bursts of 19–25 beats per second, repeated 2–3 times). They also tap slowly on surfaces near the nest cavity when choosing a nest or communicating with their mates.
This scat consisted of a small pile of bits of insect exoskeletons!
Pileated Woodpeckers eat ants, primarily carpenter ants, during the winter. They usually defecate frequently during the day at their foraging sites.
One survey of woodpecker damage to homes reported an average loss of $300 per incident. Such destruction is rare in urban areas, but it can be extensive in suburban and wooded areas, even where woodpeckers seem to have plenty of natural alternatives to houses.