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Drumming with Woodpeckers - East

Early spring in the East resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers. Their rhythmic drumming functions as other birds' songs do, to broadcast over a long distance a clear statement of territory and mating rights. Learn about this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and the others in this show - the Red-breasted Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker - at Cornell's All About Birds.

Full Transcript



Drumming with Woodpeckers – East

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 This is BirdNote!
[Drum of a Downy Woodpecker]
Like a jazz player beating out a drum roll, a woodpecker uses its bill to rap out a brisk series of notes. [Drum of a Downy Woodpecker] Early spring resounds with the percussive hammering of woodpeckers. Their rhythmic drumming works like many birds’ songs: it broadcasts to other woodpeckers over a long distance a clear assertion of territorial and mating rights. [Drum of a Downy Woodpecker]
We also hear woodpeckers knocking on wood when they are carving holes in trees to create nest cavities or extract insect prey, but these whacks are more methodical [Sound of a woodpecker excavating, any species].
 Woodpeckers in the East offer a fascinating cast of drummers. A hefty Pileated Woodpecker lets go a resounding tattoo against a hollow trunk [Pileated Woodpecker drumming]. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seems to be signaling in Morse code, as it snaps its bill against a stub of dead branch [Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drums]. And the little Downy Woodpecker’s drum roll seems rather modest – rather short and not too fast. [Downy Woodpecker drums].
For any woodpecker, it’s all about proclaiming a sound signal as far and as loud as possible. And as it searches for the most resonant drum, it might just find that your metal rain-gutter makes the best music [Red-breasted Sapsucker drumming on metal].
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein. [Red-breasted Sapsucker encore]
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Downy Woodpecker and Red-breasted Sapsucker drumming and foraging Pileated Woodpecker recorded by G.A. Keller. Pileated Woodpecker recorded by D.S. Herr.  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker recordist not known.  Red-breasted Sapsucker drumming on metal recorded by Susannah Buhrman.
Producer: John Kessler
© 2009 Tune In to

ID# woodpecker-06-MS-2009-03-11- (some sounds from 030207drummersKPLU)  


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