kaz1611's picture

woodpeckers

Do all woodpeckers drum? And how can you distinguish one from another, if so?

Thanks in advance.

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ophrys's picture

Drummers

Great Spotted drum a lot...their drum is very short and dynamic, and generally is very fast, lasting half to three quarters of a second only. Lesser Spotted drum in a less frantic manner, each roll lasting over a second and up to a second and a half...much less noisy. Green Woodpecker do drum, but not that much...I don't hear it very often at all. It lasts longer than Great Spotted, though.

If you have Lesser Spotted near you, you are very lucky...they are getting very scarce, these days.

Ian
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kaz1611's picture

woodpeckers' drumming

Thanks for your reply.
We were at the Speke Hall Estate. Are you aware of which type may be there? From your description, it most probably was a Great Spotted then. :)

j.tweedie's picture

Radio 4 had a programme about

Radio 4 had a programme about this recently, you can listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/nathistory - the programme is called Drumming Down. Living in Scotland, I've no chance of seeing a lesser spotted woodpecker, but I was surprised to hear how rare they are, but they also provide a really good description of how small they are too.

sjb365's picture

woodpecker visits

We have a woodpecker who visits our garden to peck at the fat feeder we have hanging from a tree. It only appears when there are no other birds around, and approaches slowly creeping from tree to tree.

Sam Clark

Peter Pearson's picture

Great Spotted Woodpecker

A friend of mine telephoned me in great distress. She had been watching a family of Blue Tits using a nest box on her garage wall and all seemed well until a G.S.Woodpecker turned up. It torn the box to peices and took the young family. The box was left in splinters and the nest and contents spread over her lawn

Fenwickfield's picture

boxes

You can buy boxes that have a metal plate around the hole,this is to stop Woodpeckers and other birds that take young chicks.I have seen them for sale through the R.S.P.B magazines and the B.T.O too.I know it is distressing but sadly it is nature,I try to keep my feeders and fat balls topped up even in the summer so they will eat the food I provide and hopefully leave the nests alone.

Fenwickfield

Peter Pearson's picture

reinforced boxes

Thanks for the advice Fenwickfield, I was aware of the reinforced boxes you recommend unfortunately my friend wasn't. Thankfully we dont have problems with woodpecker attck, but like you we keep our feeders topped up all year round.

DavidHowdon's picture

Cunning critters though

Woodpeckers will also cut through the nest box to take chicks out if they cannot enlarge the hole (and sometimes even if they can).

Simon Walker's picture

Even MORE Cunning...

...I believe that they've been observed listening at the sides of nest boxes for sounds of activity before investing energy in demolishing them.

Fenwickfield's picture

Clever

I think it is rather clever,I know it is not nice but to them they think good source of protein and we think fluffy chick,but the more you observe the habit's of any creature from fluffy bunny to bumble bee,there sole purpose is to reproduce successfully and survival of the fittest.I have been reading a book on the private life of rabbits and I will now never look at them in the same way certainly not cute any more, sorry veered of the subject of Woodpeckers I have watched them attack Blue tits on the nut feeders trying to stab them with there beak.

Fenwickfield

Ray Turner's picture

Indeed ...

... they do, see www.ispot.org.uk/node/54757

Ray

Ray

Ginny B's picture

I didn't know of this

I didn't know of this unpleasant habit of these woodpeckers. It would seem that they have attacked a nestbox in my garden where some tree sparrows had nested. The entrance hole has been enlarged and the box is now empty. Sadly there are not as many tree sparrows coming to my feeders at this time of year as I've had other years.

Could it be because of the rather unusual weather we've had this year and the current cold spell, that there are fewer insect larvae available for the woodpeckers to eat and they therefore turn to eating young birds? Or do they do this all the time? I've lived here over twenty years and never seen signs of it before.

WS159's picture

Unfortunately many nestboxes

Unfortunately many nestboxes are just a sitting invitation for predators like these.

I wish there was some minimum standard required for nestboxes to be not only reinforced, but also properly insulated, ventilated and non-toxic. We shouldn't be getting chick deaths from inadequate provision of nest sites, when it is preventable with some care.

Ray Turner's picture

Predation

Though I agree with the sentiment and we should provide the best care we can neither should we lose sight of the fact that woodpeckers are a predator species and will readily and often take birds form natural holes by the same or similar methods. Do we deprive one species of its prey species?

Indeed huge numbers of nests are subject to predation; suburban and garden birds actually fair much better than their rural cousins (despite the presence of so many cats) because of fewer predator species and the closer proximity to people.

Ray

Ray

ophrys's picture

Predators

Yes, I agree with Ray. It is going to happen. Just accept it as part of the natural world which you are attracting to your garden and be glad that the diversity you have is such that you have species like woodpeckers behaving naturally in there.

Ian
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Ray Turner's picture

Feeder Predation

OK so what about Sparrowhawks taking birds off the feeder, should we not put out feeders? Which is very much human intervention after all.

There is no logical difference between the above example and the case of nest boxes.

Ray

Ray

WS159's picture

The difference

1)birds feeding on "natural" food source and being taken by sparrowhawk =EQUIV= birds feeding on provided food and being taken by sparrowhawk

2)birds nesting in "natural" well insulated hole in tree and not dying of hypothermia and not having woodpecker drill through 6 inches of oak to take them (even though they may at some other point be predated) =EQUIV= birds nesting in provided well insulated nestbox and not dying of hypothermia and not having woodpecker drill through reinforced walls to take them (even though they may at some other point be predated)

3) birds nesting in "natural" or provided well insulated (etc etc) =/NOT EQUIV/= birds nesting in inadequate and badly positioned box where they die of cold, suffocation, are handed to predators on a plate.

WS159's picture

preventable and inadequate are the key words here

Why entice the adults to do all the work of nesting and feeding to see all the chicks wiped out by *preventable* problems, problems caused by human intervention ?

I really think we should count chronic nest destruction, ie deliberate provision of inadequate nest boxes and sites, as unacceptable as the more obvious acute nest robbing/destroying(which *is* recognised as being both unacceptable and illegal).

And woodpeckers being natural predators is not relevant to this point.

ophrys's picture

Woodpeckers

This all started as a thread about the drumming of woodpeckers, but seems to have evolved into a rather odd disagreement about the ethics of putting up nestboxes.

Perhaps it is time to return to the original theme, or to move on...

Ian
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Fenwickfield's picture

agreed

I agree ophrys the subject has changed I think we should not loose sight of nature it is not fluffy and cute it is cruel it's all about survival of the fittest.I don't resent any woodpecker that eat's chicks,or sparrow hawk with a bird, this is life and it is fascinating.I also think that lot's of people forget that as humans we do it too.This is the last I will comment on this subject as it is so complex that we could end up discussing it for the nest three years.I will continue to put up nest boxes and feed the birds "All birds welcome at my bird table" from Coal tit to Buzzard.

Fenwickfield

Ray Turner's picture

Agreed

I think WS159 and I will have to agree to disagree.

Ray

Ray

WS159's picture

I think people should address

I think people should address the content of what is being said. There can be no useful discussion otherwise, and we get exactly what we see here which is a set of pat responses which are totally irrelevant to the points being made.

So, yes no progress to be made in that case.

ophrys's picture

Pat responses

That is a disappointing statement. iSpot is a very friendly community where all ages are encouraged to contribute and, consequently, acceptance of others' views is important, even if you disagree. If you are looking for confrontation, there are other internet sites which seem to thrive on that sort of thing.

Ian
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WS159's picture

Actually I am astounded with

Actually I am astounded with the way this thread has turned. No, I am not "looking for confrontation" and do not wish to be chased off onto "other internet sites" (maybe you should consider how *very* unfriendly your statement is there).

Further up the thread (June 4th) reinforced boxes had been mentioned, seemingly without a problem.

I comment on a similar idea, that inadaquately constructed and badly sited nestboxes are a problem - and yet get a load of responses which contain a stream of irrelevancies about sparrowhawks, garden feeders and "that's just nature" etc etc (obvious non-reading of the point despite my repeated efforts to clarify).

So I do wonder what is the big problem people have got here ? Really, that is not sarcasm it is a serious question.

Fenwickfield's picture

was not responding

I was not going to respond but after your comments which are focused on myself I feel I need too.
I do think the Sparrow hawk was a relevant point as are all predatory birds.
This was a comments section on Woodpecker behaviour and suggestions were made on how to help improve the chances of birds nesting in boxes.I would say most people put up well constructed boxes which are placed in the correct habitat.I would also say the majority of people position there bird feeders,tables in safe area's too.People who feed and provide nest boxes for birds have an interest in there welfare and will make sure there doing the right thing by looking at bird book's B.T.O and R.S.P.B info too before putting boxes up.
It is also true that many birds nests are prone to most predatory birds and mammals in natural nests.I have had personal experience in seeing this and yes they will go to great lengths to get there food or watch for the birds to fledge and get them that way.Mammals will also take chick's out of ground and tree nesting birds.I have put up 15 nest boxes one Owl box and have over 12 natural nest's were I live I also have a pair of Woodpeckers and bird's of prey and I have a very healthy population of birds and over 30 different species.I have over the years recorded the nests and bird counts and the Woodpeckers have had significant impact on the small bird population and I have only had two nests robbed of chicks and that was by a stoat.
I feel that we must not make out that the woodpecker is a ruthless predator and also not jump to the conclusion that everyone is putting up nest boxes that are badly built and in the wrong location.The only way you could get a true answer and not an assumption is if a survey was carried out over a number of years by either the B.T.O or R.S.P.B

Fenwickfield

WS159's picture

I do understand that

I do understand that predators exist. I was saying that the general existence of predators was not relevant to people taking more care with their nest boxes. And I do agree, we do not know the extent of this in any scientific way. Maybe I have just heard too many tales of failed boxes, and seen too many really poor quality ones for sale.

Interestingly I have just been catching up with the Springwatch videos and there was footage of a woodpecker going after a fledgling (one of the pied flycatchers I think), and a sparrowhawk taking the birds right off the feeders themselves. Of course this happens, I don't think that is a point of disagreement at all.

RoyW's picture

I seem to have missed a

I seem to have missed a 'discussion' here, which has had some interesting views expressed.

On predation by woodpeckers, I would suggest that it is nothing new for them to be predating on nestlings - it's just that it is more noticeable when they are taking nestlings from nest boxes.

Woodpeckers, and other predators, will just as readily enlarge nest holes to get at young in natural nest holes. In fact, some studies that have looked into predation on birds in nestboxes and natural nest sites have actually found that predation rates were lower in nestboxes (but predation by woodpeckers seemed to have been higher)!
http://www.conservationevidence.com/individual-study.php?id=1506

Any argument against provision of 'inadequate' nestboxes seems to me to ignore the fact that birds tend to investigate as many potential nest sites as they can before decided on where to nest. Apart from the possibility of toxic preservatives etc having been used, birds are generally intelligent enough to assess the suitability of a nest site (whether natural or artificial). If a nestbox really is inadequate, for whatever reason, it is unlikely to be used - unless there are no other possibilities for them to choose from.