Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

Drumming with Woodpeckers - West

Early spring in the West 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 Pileated Woodpecker and the others in this show - the Red-breasted Sapsucker, the Williamson's Sapsucker, and Downy Woodpecker - at Cornell's All About Birds.

Full Transcript



Drumming with Woodpeckers - West

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 West offer a fascinating cast of different drummers. A hefty Pileated Woodpecker lets go a resounding tattoo against a hollow trunk [Pileated Woodpecker drumming]. A Red-breasted Sapsucker seems to be signaling in Morse code, as it snaps its bill against a stub of dead branch [Red-breasted Sapsucker drums]. And a Williamson’s Sapsucker bangs out a triple drum roll [Williamson’s Sapsucker 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. [Williamson’s Sapsucker drumming]

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 and Williamson Sapsucker drumming recorded by D.S. Herr. Red-breasted Sapsucker drumming on metal recorded by Susannah Buhrman.
Producer: John Kessler
© 2009 Tune In to / March 2020

ID# 030207drummersKPLU   woodpecker-06-MS-2009-03-11

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes: