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Woodpeckers

Five species of woodpeckers live in Winnebago County year-round: the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) and Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a common migrant. The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is another migrant occasionally seen in select forest preserves.

Woodpeckers typically live in woodlands. They have chisel-like beaks and long, flexible tongues designed for drilling and probing under tree bark. Most species peck on dead, dying trees to feed on insects that bore into the wood, such as carpenter ants, bark beetles and wireworms. Others eat plant material like 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.