Drum, drum, drum

February 22, 2013 | Greg Dodge

The daylight hours are increasing, the weather getting warmer and the local birds are singing, some birds, that is. Woodpeckers, as vocal as they can sometimes be, don’t have a sweet song to sing to attract a mate or proclaim their territorial boundaries. They, instead of singing a tune to announce their intentions, seek out the most resonant piece of tree limb, trunk, clapboard siding or rain gutter and drum out their message.

There are eight species of woodpecker that you’re likely to see here in North Carolina. I’ve seen seven of those species at the Museum. Only the Red-cockaded Woodpecker has eluded me, and I don’t expect to ever look one in the eye here, a little further south and a little different habitat for the red-cockaded.

By far, the most common woodpeckers here at the Museum are Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, although Northern Flickers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can be expected on any fall or winter day. The downy and red-bellieds are the two you’ll most likely see or hear if you walk through Explore the Wind or Catch the Wind, and certainly if you stop at the bird feeders just before you get to Into the Mist.

A female Downy Woodpecker takes suet. The males have a red patch of feathers on the back on their heads.

The downy is more comfortable with people than the red-bellied, and will come into the feeders whether you’re there or not, as long as you’re not jumping up and down and waving your arms in the air. You may have to be a bit more still and quiet to see our red-bellieds come in on the suet or sunflower feeders. They’re a tad more shy.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker checks me out as I snap the shutter, “I think this guy’s a little too close!” Female red-bellieds have red only on the nape, not the top of the head.

Listen for the drumming of these woodpeckers as you stroll the campus and see if you can find them in the trees above your head.

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If you were wondering what other species of woopecker there are in North Carolina, here’s the complete list:

Red-headed Woopecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Northern “Yellow-shafted” Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

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