Listen for Woodpeckers Making Their Winter Homes This Fall

Instead of migrating, some species chisel out snug roosting cavities to keep warm during the colder months.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

This is BirdNote.

A familiar sound of spring: a woodpecker hard at work, carving out a nest hole in a tree trunk [woodpecker chiseling a nest hole]. Here the female will lay her eggs and the pair will raise their young. When you’re lucky, you can hear young woodpeckers, like these Pileated Woodpeckers begging from within the trunk. 

But now that fall has arrived, we may hear an excavating sound again.

What’s going on? 

It turns out that some woodpecker species stay year round in the region where they nest, while others migrate south in winter. Those that remain through the colder months – well, it’s safe to say they’re not nesting now. No, these fall excavators are chiseling out roosting cavities, snug hollows where they’ll shelter during the cold nights of fall and winter. 

Many woodpeckers roost in such cavities, usually by themselves. Even the young, once they’re fledged, have to find their own winter quarters. 

With woodpeckers, once the nights turn cold, it’s every bird for itself.

Writers for BirdNote include Bob Sundstrom, Ellen Blackstone, Todd Peterson, Dennis Paulson and Chris Peterson. Our producer is John Kessler. For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.



Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson 

Narrator: Mary McCann

Written by Bob Sundstrom

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Pileated Woodpecker excavating a cavity [119461] recorded by G.A. Keller; and begging calls of Pileated Woodpecker [63120] by G.A. Keller.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Information sources include: Alexander Skutch, Birds Asleep, U. of Texas press, 1989.

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October  2013/2017   ID# woodpecker-09-2013-10-28 woodpecker-09