Chattanooga's Colorful Woodpeckers

Chattanooga's Colorful Woodpeckers

June 30th, 2013 Meghan Pittman in Local Regional News

Sometimes our avian friends the woodpeckers get a bad rap. They're noisy, drill holes into houses and trees - and it doesn't help that they are associated with the cartoon Woody Woodpecker. But Chattanooga's woodpeckers aren't just drilling holes into your beloved trees to annoy you - that's their livelihood.

"We have a pretty healthy population of woodpeckers here and they are here year round," says Eric Brown with Wild Birds Unlimited. "Only one of them, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, leaves for the winter."

With all of those woodpeckers around, you'll probably hear them before you see them - even in your own backyard. The unmistakable rap-rap-rap of their beaks hitting trees is how woodpeckers eat, live and even claim their space.

Chattanooga is home to many species of woodpeckers:

Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

Downey Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

Hairy Woodpecker

Picoides villosus

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus varius

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

"They're looking for food, because bugs are their primary source of food," Brown says. "They also are making a natural nesting cavity ... but the drumming you hear can also be them staking out their territory, like a call, but saying 'I'm the big bad bird on the block.'" Woodpeckers don't discriminate wood on which to drum - especially if there's a likelihood of bugs being present - but they tend to drum on softer trees, often ones that are dying or are already dead. It's easier for them, and they often do have a lot of insects, says Brown. Even after all of the bad press, some people still want to attract woodpeckers to their backyards.

Brown and Wild Birds Unlimited make woodpecker specific set-ups featuring suet: rendered beef fat food for birds, high with protein and calories that sometimes features bugs. Doesn't that sound lovely? "The woodpeckers are extremely colorful and easy to spot, and people like that," Brown says. "And while they are boisterous, their diet primarily consists of insects and they do help control the population."