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Why are woodpeckers pecking our wood divisions on the outside of our house?

Sent in by Patricia Kind, Sheriffhales, Shropshire

Great spotted woodpeckers inhabit a variety of broadleaved and mixed woodlands and woodland edge, copses, parks and orchards. It is the species most likely to be seen in gardens.

Woodpeckers have a specialised lifestyle, and require dead wood both for nesting and for feeding. They excavate their nesting holes in tree trunks or large branches, favouring a dead tree or a live one that has soft wood, such as a birch or a willow.

They also chisel and excavate wood to reach wood-boring insects. Instead of singing to declare their territory, woodpeckers drum to advertise their presence to others. They require wood with particular resonant qualities for this purpose.

The reason why a woodpecker would attack timber on the side of a building could be any of the three. However, the usual reason is that the bird is looking for food. Timber cladding of all kinds provide sheltered nooks and crannies for insects to hide in. Woodpeckers have very good hearing, and they will be able to hear the insects moving behind the timber, in the same way as they would locate a wood-boring grub inside a tree trunk or other piece of dead wood. Once it has located the food, the woodpecker would chisel through the timber to reach it.

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