Have you been hearing pecking noises at night? The culprit is probably not a Woodpecker. That’s because these birds are strictly diurnal and spend the night sleeping in roost cavities and other cozy spots.
It’s a good thing that Woodpeckers don’t peck at night, especially if these birds are common in your backyard. Woodpeckers occasionally drum, forage, and nest in timber homes, which would be quite a disturbance after a long day!
Continue reading to learn more about the pecking habits of Woodpeckers and learn what could be causing pecking noises at night.
Pictured: A Great Spotted Woodpecker roosting in the cavity of a tree
Woodpeckers are uniquely adapted to exploit food resources that few other birds and animals can reach. Accessing food behind the bark and even within the wood of trees demands some pretty specialized tools, and this has shaped them into the remarkable birds we know today.
Woodpeckers have powerful, self-sharpening bills to drill into wood, and they use their extra long, barb-tipped tongues to reach in and pull out their insect prey. These birds can cling to vertical surfaces or even hang upside down using their X-shaped zygodactyl feet and stiff tail feathers.
These birds don’t only find food in trees. They also make their own shelters for sleeping and nesting and even drum to attract or repel other members of their species. While these behaviors may be fascinating to watch, they also concern homeowners when Woodpeckers turn their attention toward wood-sided houses.
Pictured: A Grey-headed Woodpecker. Woodpeckers have extra long tongues to reach in and pull out their prey
Birds and animals can be defined by their peak activity times. The two most common patterns are diurnality (active by day, asleep at night) and nocturnality (active by night and asleep during daylight hours).
Like most birds, Woodpeckers are diurnal, which explains why you never hear or see them after dark. These birds typically forage during the day and spend the night asleep in self-excavated roost cavities.
However, it’s not unusual to see birds at night, and some might even hunt around your property or land on your home. Nocturnal birds are much less common than diurnal species, although you could spot the following species near your home:
Many birds are crepuscular, which means they become particularly active in the low light of early morning and late evening. Some diurnal birds also sing at night, although you’re unlikely to mistake the sweet song of a Robin or Northern Mockingbird for the pecking of a Woodpecker!
Pictured: A Great Spotted Woodpecker. Woodpeckers are diurnal and forage during the day
Artificial light influences many birds, sometimes increasing the amount of time they can forage in the evening. While Woodpeckers could theoretically feed or communicate by the light of your home or nearby streetlights, this does not seem to happen in practice.
Pictured: A Downy Woodpecker. Artificial light can influence many birds and increase the amount of time they forage in the evening
Woodpeckers are thought to find some of their meals by listening to insects moving within the wood, and they can’t see their prey tunneling through the wood anyway, so why don’t these birds continue to feed after night?
Like other birds, Woodpeckers need sleep to stay healthy. Foraging by day is a natural choice because it allows them to use sight for foraging and detecting predators. Pecking at night would quickly attract the attention of predators, leaving the Woodpecker vulnerable to attack from unseen enemies.
Pictured: A Black Woodpecker flying away from its nest in the forest
Discouraging Woodpeckers can be difficult, especially when they’re dead set on excavating a nest in your home. However, these birds are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States and protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the United Kingdom, so think twice before reaching for any sort of weapon.
Deterring them is the most effective solution, especially if you can start as soon as they begin pecking at your home. The following humane methods can be very effective if used promptly:
These methods effectively deter Woodpeckers during the day, but what do you do about noisy birds or animals after dark?
If you believe a small bird or animal is trapped or living in your home, try to identify the species (safely) and get advice specific to that animal. If you can’t get a look at the creature, consult a pest removal company that can perform an inspection and offer guidance or removal.
Pictured: A Northern Flicker pecking on a metal chimney pot
So it’s pretty unlikely that you’re hearing a Woodpecker pecking at night, even if you regularly see and hear them during the day. However, there’s a logical explanation for everything, including things that go bump in the night.
The following creatures could be responsible for pecking noises after dark:
Many frogs and toads make clicking, tapping, and knocking sounds during the breeding season, and they can be especially vocal after dark. You’re most likely to hear frogs at night if you have a pond or other freshwater body near your home.
The following frog species may sound similar to a pecking Woodpecker:
A Great Spotted Woodpecker perching in a tree in the moonlight
As strange as it sounds, some insects can make a tapping noise, just not as loud as a Woodpecker. The deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) is a small insect about a quarter of an inch long (6 - 7.5mm) that taps on wood with its head. These pests are most common in homes with oak timber.
Mammals are one of the most common culprits when it comes to strange noises in walls, ceilings, and attics. They don’t exactly peck, but these animals certainly can make a lot of noise! The following mammals often sneak into our homes:
Pictured: A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It is pretty unlikely that you will hear a Woodpecker pecking at night
It’s also possible that the pecking or tapping sounds you hear at night might not be the work of any living creature. No, I’m not suggesting anything paranormal here, but rather the perfectly normal sounds of materials contracting as they cool off.
Common inanimate sounds:
Pictured: Female Pileated Woodpecker foraging at the edge of a dark forest
Woodpeckers rarely peck on houses at night. If you’ve heard some tapping or pecking sounds in your home, the culprit is more likely to be some other animal, like a rodent, or even the sound of building materials or ductwork contracting as the air temperature decreases.
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