Woodpeckers

All in the Family

They may not all have the word "woodpecker" in their names, but they're all members of the Picidae family, which has an interesting set of characteristics.

Five woodpeckers live in DuPage year-round: the downy, hairy, red-bellied, and red-headed woodpeckers and the northern flicker. Once considered migrants, pileated woodpeckers are being spotted more often year-round, too. Birders often add yellow-bellied sapsuckers to their lists but only during migration season.

Woodpeckers have chisel-like beaks and long, flexible tongues designed for drilling and probing under bark. Most species peck on dead and dying trees to feed on insects that bore into the wood, such as carpenter ants, bark beetles and wireworms. Others eat nuts and seeds or are attracted to suet and sunflower seeds at bird feeders.

When a woodpecker’s persistent hammering at one area in the spring does not produce a cavity, it is probably a behavior called “drumming.” Rather than singing to attract mates or announce their territories, woodpeckers drum at specific sites within their domain to announce their presence.