Program Information — Series 3 & 4
Click on a program in the right-hand column to see a description and program notes.

Drumming - Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers

Woodpeckers and sapsuckers both attack trees to feed, but they have very different goals. Sapsuckers chisel into living wood to create wounds that ooze sap. Their hairy tongues work like little brushes for slurping up the sap. Woodpeckers, on the other hand, drill for grubs and other solid food under the bark of trees. Their tongues are longer, with backward-facing barbs to help them drag out insects and their larvae. The pecking and chiseling these birds do hunting for a meal sounds leisurely and without rhythm.

Their loud, insistent drumming is not about a meal. It functions like song: to attract mates and mark territory. But while most songs are sung by male birds, both males and females drum.

You can distinguish the drumming of woodpeckers from that of sapsuckers. While different woodpeckers drum fast or slow, pecking lightly or seeming to put their whole bodies into it, their drumming has a regular, steady rhythm. On the other hand, sapsuckers drum with a characteristic Morse-code-like broken rhythm.

Woodpeckers have repetitive songs called "rattles" and informative calls, too.

The recordings of the Williamson's and red-breasted sapsucker drumming and of the pileated woodpecker drumming are found on the CD accompanying the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Handbook of Bird Biology. The hairy woodpecker drumming and foraging pecks are from the CD collection Bird Songs of California from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Series 3
Egg Calls
Chick ID Calls
Chicken Calls
Vocal Tract
Syrinx Styles
Airway Model
Airway Overtones
Coiled Trachea
Beak & Airway
Vowels & Airway
Tuvan Throat Singing

Series 4
Size & Sound
Forest Soundscape
Grassland Soundscape
Bird Hearing
Local Dialects
Regional Dialects
Drumming - Woodpeckers Etc.
Bird Tongues
Bird Brains & Singing
Song Duels?
Dawn Chorus
Finale: Song Sparrow