Woodpeckers are 7 to 15 inches in length, and usually have brightly contrasting coloration. Most males have some red on the head, and many species have some black and white marks. The woodpeckers have short legs with two sharp-clawed, backward-pointed toes and stiff tail feathers, which serve as a supportive prop.
There are over 200 different species of woodpeckers worldwide, 23 of which can be found in the United States. The woodpecker is most commonly found in wooded regions of the country, where they can cause damage to the exterior of wooden buildings and houses. The Woodpecker’s unique body is designed to easily cling to tree trunks, branches, wood siding, or utility poles while pecking for food. Pecking or “drumming” against trees or buildings is the characteristic most associated with Woodpeckers. They do this to establish territories and to attract or signal mates. Woodpeckers primarily feed on tree living or wood-boring insects using their strong beak and long tongue to dislodge food. Some members of the Woodpecker family (Flickers) feed on insects of the ground, while others prefer native berries, fruit and nuts.
Damage Woodpeckers can be a nuisance in wooded regions of the country, primarily from the drumming sound they produce when pecking at the sides of homes and businesses. This can be quite annoying, especially in the early morning when the occupants are trying to sleep. They can also cause significant damage to the sides of buildings, telephone poles, eaves, fences, etc., by pecking holes into the surface. The holes are usually caused by 1 or 2 birds during the spring time mating season.
Control All Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The most effective control method has been visual devices, Scare eye balloons, and installation of a woodpecker house, effective, especially if used when the problem first arises.
Nesting They select their homes near wooded regions because of their dependence on trees for food and shelter. Woodpeckers use their strong beak to bore holes into tree limbs or trunks when carving out a place to live. They prefer to live in dead trees and show a tendency to build on the side of the structure that receives the early morning light and warmth from the rising sun. They can also be found living in man made structures, such as wooden fence posts, utility poles, and buildings. The loss of old growth trees has accelerated their use of man made structures for homes.
Woodpeckers breed in the spring, commonly laying 2 to 8 dull white or glossy eggs. The incubation period lasts from 11 to 14 days and maybe longer for larger Woodpeckers. They typically have 2 broods per year with some species bearing eggs 3 times per year. Eggs are watched over by both parents during incubation.
Very few species of Woodpeckers are migratory, although some species show movement southward in winter or from higher mountains to warmer lower valleys. In general, cold weather is not a problem because of the availability of their food supply under bark or in dead or rotted wood where it is out of reach of most birds.