Why Do Woodpeckers Drum?

Jul 7, 2015

There are 10 species of woodpeckers in Iowa, and while woodpeckers are the type of birds that are sometimes heard but not seen, their drumming does have a purpose. Wildlife biologist Jim Pease explains that it’s like a song.

“We are most likely to think of birds as singers, but there are lots of other ways birds signal their presence and stake out their territory – the hooting of the owl, for example, is not exactly a song. Then we have birds like the woodcock that have special feathers in their wings that make sounds as they drop down through the air. Drumming is just another way of staking out their territory.”

Pease says it’s mostly males that drum, and that drumming serves an important role when it comes to communicating with female birds.

“The louder the drumming and the longer it goes on is usually an indicator of the fitness of the male, and that fitness is attractive to the opposite sex.”

During this Talk of Iowa, Pease talks with host Charity Nebbe.