Woodpecker Drumming

Out near a telephone pole, you might have noticed a peculiar sound — the spirited staccato of a woodpecker’s drumming. I often see woodpeckers at the tops of telephone poles, pecking away. Is there actually something in there for them to eat, or have they just been fooled by the similarity to a tree?

Woodpecker Drumming 1

Woodpeckers might peck the tops of utility poles for a variety of reasons. Old utility poles — that haven’t been chemically treated — can become home to insects that live in the cracks. A woodpecker that repeatedly taps at many different places up and down a utility pole might be either exploring for — or even feasting on — beetles, roaches, millipedes, termites, or ants.

Woodpecker Drumming 2
Melanerpes formicivorus; Acorn Woodpecker.

On top of that, some species use wooden utility poles as a place to store food for an upcoming winter. In the eastern U.S., the most active acorn-storing woodpecker is the beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker. Their populations are declining in many areas because of the absence of available dead trees for acorn storage. Here, telephone poles might provide a handy substitute.

And during the spring and summer nesting season, woodpeckers drum loudly as territorial displays from exposed tree limbs — or from a telephone poles.

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