Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A downy woodpecker pecks at a nearby tree in a Tooele City park.

November 25, 2015
The downy woodpecker tree-taps for more than just eating

Though the downy woodpecker is a rather simple species, they are helpful by devouring several species of pests that can be damaging to both trees and crops.

While downy woodpeckers do mine trees for insects, they do not damage them and will also scout for insects on stems or join flocks of chickadees and nuthatches during non-breeding seasons.

Their diets include more than 44 species of different devoured insects, including apple-borers, aphids, bark beetles, caterpillars, katydids, wood-burrowing larvae, and the eggs of moths, butterflies, and grasshoppers.

Besides their habitual insect scouting, they do use trees for other purposes. Among dead or dying soft-wooded trees, they make nests or roosting cavities.

Downy woodpeckers use their drumming sound and body poses for communication. Most commonly during the late winter or spring, the downy woodpecker uses its drumming sound not only on wood, but sometimes on metal poles as well when defending territory, attracting mates, or when two mates are communicating with each other. As for their body poses, they may resort to waving or flicking their wings, head swinging, crest raising and other actions.

Taylor Lindsay is a writer and photographer of creatures big and small. She can be contacted at

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