15 Facts About Woodpeckers [Eating Habits, Lifespan and More]

Woodpeckers belong to the family Picidae and mainly include the Piculets, Wrynecks, and Sapsuckers. There are more than 180 species of Woodpeckers that are generally found worldwide except for some of the regions of Australia, New Guinea, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions.

Most of the members of this family live in the forests or woodland habitats, while some are also known to live in treeless hillsides or deserts.

Their size, shape, eating habits, lifespan, habitats, and all other attributes differ considerably depending upon their varied species.

Whenever we think of Woodpeckers the first and foremost thing that comes to our mind is their pecking of tree trunks in the woodlands, which is thought to be one of their major key features.

However, it should be kept in mind that these birds have a lot more characteristic behaviors that are worth acknowledging.

Let us therefore explore and discover the various aspects of the unique traits and behaviors of Woodpeckers and how considerably they differ from species to species, making them a totally distinctive group of Aves.

15 Interesting Facts About Woodpeckers

This article intends to present the 15 most fascinating and interesting facts concerning Woodpeckers and their characteristic behaviors relating to their feeding habits, lifespan, livelihood, pecking habits, and their differences amongst different species.

1. How do Woodpeckers Find Food?

Woodpeckers usually find their food in the woods using their extremely incredible listening skills to spot their prey inside a tree trunk and their sharp strong bills as a tool to hunt them down.

Woodpeckers don’t just peck the tree trunks, rather they prey on insects out of the woods in the wild. They primarily rely on sound to predict the exact location of their prey.

They listen to the sounds of grubs crawling and chewing food under the tree barks, and they also tap the wood to listen to the different sounds made by hollow arenas over the trunk to spot the presence of insects. Therefore, Woodpeckers use highly efficient strategies to hunt down their prey.

2. What Does a Woodpecker Eat?

Being both Omnivorous creatures and opportunistic foragers, the dietary preferences of Woodpeckers are naturally quite flexible including both vegetable residues and Insects.

Their diet includes termites, ants, beetles, and their larvae, caterpillars, spiders, bugs, bird eggs, small rodents, tree nuts, mealworms, fruits, seeds, sap and nectar. Different species of Woodpeckers use different strategies to find their food.

For example, the Red-Naped Sapsuckers catch flying insects, the Rufous Woodpeckers usually attack the nests of arboreal ants, the Buff-Spotted Woodpeckers feeds on termite mounds, while others spot within tree trunks or feed wholly or partly on the ground.

3. How Often Do Woodpeckers Have to Eat?

Being opportunistic foragers by nature, the feeding habits of Woodpeckers are therefore genuinely driven by their instinct to hunt their prey and most importantly the availability of their food supplements.

How often do Woodpeckers eat predominantly depends on their age and their physical development stage.

Nestlings usually feed more frequently than adults in order to sustain their growth needs. Also, in their molting stage, they opt to feed more frequently.

During this stage, they spend more time resting and feeding because the process of creating new feathers requires a lot of energy, which they can address only by having an extra amount of food to eat.

4. How Long Does a Woodpecker Live?

The average lifespan of Woodpeckers is normally around 10-11 years. However, their lifespan depends upon various factors including their varied species.

As mentioned, the average lifespan of Woodpeckers also depends upon their different species. Some of the species of Woodpeckers may live up to 30 years. Most commonly found Woodpeckers normally live for about 10-11 years on average.

On the other hand, there are also some species of Woodpeckers such as the Green Woodpeckers with a lifespan of not more than 7 years. Therefore, it can be said that Woodpeckers are known to survive for a maximum period of four to twelve years on average.

5. What Eats a Woodpecker?

The common predators of Woodpeckers include some Owl species, Falcons, Red Foxes, Hawks, Raccoons, Bobcats, Coyotes, etc.

Woodpeckers do not simply prey on creatures, they also play an important role by being another creature’s prey. Some species of snakes and other creatures are also known to rob the nests of Woodpeckers and feed upon their eggs and babies.

6. How Do Woodpeckers Know Where to Peck?

Woodpeckers have an extraordinary capacity for hearing. They utilize their excellent listening skills to trace the presence of insects beneath tree trunks and accordingly locate the exact and perfect spots to peck.

Woodpeckers usually use their excellent hearing skills to listen to the noises made by grub chewing wood beneath the tree trunks.

They are also known to locate the entrance holes made by worms to predict and spot perfect arenas for pecking on the tree trunks.

7. How Fast Do Woodpeckers Peck?

Woodpeckers generally peck a tree trunk at a speed of about 20 times per second. They are known to peck around 8,000 to 12,000 pecks per day!

Woodpeckers peck real fast and hard. Their natural anatomy is such that it absorbs the shock of repeated pecking and protects the brain from injuries which in turn helps them to peck tree barks at such an incredible speed.

The speed of pecking of Woodpeckers varies considerably depending upon their species.

For instance, The Black-Backed Woodpeckers peck at a speed of 20-25 times per second, while the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and the common Downy or Hairy Woodpeckers peck at a speed of 15-20 times per second.

8. How Long Does It Take for Woodpecker Eggs to Hatch?

Both the Woodpecker male and female incubate their eggs for a period of about 11-14 days before the eggs hatch. Therefore, it usually takes around 12-14 days for a Woodpecker egg to hatch.

The time period of incubation for Woodpecker eggs is the same for nearly all the Woodpecker species. However, the mating rituals and courtship habits along with the number of eggs laid may vary considerably depending upon their varied species.

The Woodpecker nestlings are ultimately able to fly from their nests after the next 24-30 days.

9. What is the Wingspan of a Woodpecker?

The Wingspan of a Woodpecker measures up to 30 inches depending upon their varied species.

A Woodpecker’s wingspan totally depends upon their varied species and is also somewhat conditioned by their geographical location. Different species of Woodpeckers are of different physical appearances.

For instance, the smallest Woodpecker, i.e. Piculets have a much smaller wingspan compared to the larger species of Woodpeckers such as Pileated Woodpeckers that usually have a wingspan of 26-30 inches.

Other larger species of Woodpeckers such as the Great Slaty Woodpecker or the extinct Imperial Woodpecker also have a greater wingspan compared to the smaller-sized Woodpecker species.

10. How High Does the Woodpecker Fly?

Woodpeckers can normally fly from very close to the ground or water to more than 30 meters in height.

The pattern of a flight of different species of Woodpeckers differs considerably depending upon their varied species.

Some large-sized Woodpeckers such as Dryocopus have a fast and direct form of flight, while the majority of Woodpecker species have a typical ‘undulating flight pattern’ consisting of a series of rapid flaps followed by a swooping glide.

Many birds belonging to the genus Melanerpes have distinctive, rowing wing-strokes while the Piculets engage in short bursts of a rapid direct flight.

11. What Woodpecker Lives in a Desert?

Woodpeckers are expected to be found in the woods, but there are some Woodpecker species that are found in desert areas. These species include Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis), Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris), and Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides).

The Gila Woodpeckers are medium-sized Woodpeckers that are found in the desert regions of the south-western United States and Western Mexico.

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker is also found in dry arid regions of North America.

The Gilded Flicker species are large-sized Woodpeckers that are found in the Desert regions of the South-western United States and North-western Mexico. These species of Woodpeckers are well-adapted to arid and desert environments.

12. What is the Difference Between a Downy Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker?

Perhaps there are no other bird species that twin each other as the Woodpecker cousins, Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers do.

However, there are a number of differences between the two Woodpecker species that may help people to distinguish between them.

The main difference between the two species is in their size. Hairy Woodpeckers are much larger in size than Downy Woodpeckers, about ⅓ longer and 3 times heavier.

The bill of a Downy Woodpecker is tiny in comparison to its head, while the bill of a Hairy Woodpecker is quite large.

Another feature that can be utilized to differentiate between the two is their white outer tail feathers.

Hairy Woodpeckers have pure white outer feathers, while on the other hand, there are some black or gray spotted areas along the sides of the white outer tail feathers of Downy Woodpeckers.

They can also be distinguished on the basis of the sounds of their different calling voices and habitat preferences.

13. What is the Difference Between a Flicker and a Woodpecker?

Belonging to the same family Picidae, both Flickers and Woodpeckers naturally share a great deal of commonalities in respect to their appearances and characteristic features.

In fact, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers look a lot like each other. However, there are quite dissimilarities between the two which assists us to differentiate between these two species of the same family.

There are considerable differences in feeding habits of both Flickers and Woodpeckers.

The primary difference between the two species is that, Woodpeckers generally cling on to tree trunks and peck into the bark in order to find and feed on the insects and insect larvae, whereas, Flickers are primarily ground feeders that hunt for ants and other insects using their feet and strong bill to dig and find insects from the ground.

Unlike other Woodpeckers, Flickers usually migrate Southwards when appropriate weather conditions arrive. Also, they reuse their nests from earlier years.

Differences between Woodpeckers and Flickers can also be observed in their horizontal or vertical movements along the tree trunks, appearances, behaviors, noises or sounds made, and sizes.

Northern Flickers are comparatively much larger in size than many North American Woodpeckers. Sometimes, Flickers use unusual objects for drumming and often make maximum noise in that respect.

14. How Do Woodpeckers Stay Warm in the Winters?

Woodpecker species, like any other bird species, generally utilize tree cavities and nest boxes to stay warm and maintain their body temperatures in order to survive during the harsh winter times.

These tree cavities and boxes provide protection to the Woodpeckers from the weather as well as their predators during the cold wintry seasons.

Many species are also known to flock together in order to keep themselves warm throughout the winter season.

These birds can also retain heat in their bodies by fluffing out their feathers in order to maintain a tight energy balance during harsh climatic conditions.

15. What Do Woodpeckers Eat in the Winter?

During the winter months and colder seasons, a Woodpecker diet primarily includes seeds, nuts, and fruits. Woodpeckers are also known to rely on Suet for surviving in the cold wintry months.

Insects, the staple food of Woodpeckers, are mostly absent during the Winters since they are known either to hibernate or to have migrated.

As an alternative source of food supplements, Woodpeckers resort to feeding upon the abundant seeds and nuts in order to sustain during those wintry days.

Many Woodpeckers species are even known to store extra food resources for the colder months when the supplies of these items are scarce. Thus, berries, seeds, fruits, and nuts form their primary food items in winters.

Final Words:

Thus, it is evident from the whole discussion that Woodpeckers are one of the most fascinating bird species that are unique in their own ways.

Hope, you found the details we shared interesting related to the feeding habits, lifespan, characteristic features, behavioral traits, physical appearances, winter habits, unique capabilities of woodpeckers.