Did you wake up to a drilling sound as if someone was pecking on the wooden house boards in the middle of the night? If yes, then your best guess would be a woodpecker.
Woodpeckers are infamously known for their strange habit of pecking at wood. They can peck up to 20 times per second and at a rate of 13 to 15mph.
This phenomenal speed creates a low drumming sound. You can almost mistake it for someone drilling nails into a wooden panel. So, when you hear this in the night, it’s natural to question – do woodpeckers peck at night?
Well, the answer is a little complex. Let’s explore it together below!
When Do Woodpeckers Peck?
To the untrained eye, woodpeckers peck because they are bored and want to entertain themselves. However, the truth is the exact opposite.
Woodpeckers always have a specific reason for this unusual activity. They will peck when they want to:
1. Find Food
Wood is home to a number of different insects, like ants, spiders, termites, beetles, and caterpillars. Since woodpeckers enjoy feasting on these insects, they will peck at wood to find them. They usually don’t have to dig much deeper, though.
Most insects are either on top of the wood or directly under the first layer. So, the slightest of openings is enough to access them. However, if a woodpecker continues pecking at a spot for long, it may be after the tree’s sap.
2. Store Food
Woodpeckers aren’t very active in the cold. They don’t hibernate, but they don’t explore the outdoors much, either. So, just before winter arrives, woodpeckers will peck at wood to create cavities for food storage purposes.
They will collect fruits, nuts, seeds, and other non-moving edible items. However, if it’s possible, some species will leave everything and migrate to the south.
These include the red headed woodpecker, downy woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Northern flickers, and acorns.
3. Build a Nest
Similar to most birds, woodpeckers live and nest inside hollowed trees. If they can’t find an abandoned hollow space (of other birds or previous generations), they will peck to create a new one in the wood.
Typically, woodpeckers need 60 cubic inches of space to live comfortably. So, they are going to peck longer than usual. If they want to build a nest and not just a roosting place, the woodpeckers will peck for days.
The male will do most of the excavation. He will first crack the wood and then dig a jug-shaped cavity in 12 to 17 days. This nest will be around 8 to 12 inches deep with a 2-inches entrance.
4. Establish their Territory
Woodpeckers are territorial birds that can occupy 12 acres of land. They will usually mark their territory during the breeding season. The male will peck to create a loud drumming sound and aggressively protect the land.
If another bird intrudes and threatens the woodpecker, it will fight for long consecutive hours until the enemy runs away. It will also protect the eggs from predators, like owls and snakes.
5. Call their Mate
The breeding season of woodpeckers is from March to May. They will form pairs before this time period by creating a low drumming sound to call potential mates. When a male finds a female mate, he won’t peck at wood to attract more.
These birds are largely monogamous and will stay with one partner for the rest of their lives. But there are a few exceptions (like acorn woodpeckers) that are polygamous.
Are Woodpeckers Nocturnal or Diurnal Birds?
Diurnal is the opposite of nocturnal. While nocturnal creatures are active at night, diurnal ones are active during the daytime.
Woodpeckers belong to the diurnal category. This means their circadian rhythm (or sleep cycle) varies with the time of day – just like humans. They will become active during the day and dormant at nighttime.
So, when the sun rises, these birds wake up to complete their daily activities. But when the sunsets, they go back into their roosting places to rest. They can sleep for as long as the sun doesn’t rise again (10 to 12 hours).
However, if they get extremely tired during the day, they can also take short naps. They will tuck their heads under their wings and sleep wherever they are.
Wait… What Does That Mean?!
Now we know woodpeckers are only active during the daytime, you must be wondering whether the pecking sound outside your house at night belonged to a woodpecker or not. The short answer is maybe!
Woodpeckers are generally not likely to peck at night. However, if you live in a country where the sky’s still dark at 4:00 a.m., it’s technically morning. The woodpecker is justified to be up for pecking at the wood.
The bird will begin its early-morning routine on any wooden surface. It can be a nearby tree, a fence, or even the wooden boards of your house. If there is a metal panel, woodpeckers will peck at it too.
Since metal is hard and smooth, it creates a much louder drilling sound than wood. These birds enjoy the loudness because their communication becomes more effective.
So, it doesn’t matter whether this bird wants to attract a mate or declare its territory, it will gladly pick metal over wood any day.
With that said, if you heard a pecking sound in the night hours (from sunset to before 4 a.m.), it must be something else. Read more to find out what!
Which Animal Sounds Like a Woodpecker at Night?
Surprisingly, the woodpecker isn’t the only animal that makes drilling and drumming sounds. There are some animals who make the same noises and are up at night too. So, your potential suspects include:
Raccoon is a sneaky nocturnal animal that is popular for its black-masked eyes and human-like hands. It is also highly intelligent and adaptable, which helps it survive in any environment.
You can find raccoons in the cities of the US, Canada, Mexico, and northern South America. They like to come out at night and steal food from dumpsters, gardens, and even kitchens. While doing so, raccoons may knock rapidly on the dumpster lid or other surfaces.
There are some amphibians who are active at night and make woodpecker-like noises. One of them is the Bufo Marinus – also called marine or giant toad. They live nearby lakes and are noticeably very large.
At night, they make a low-pitched drumming sound that resembles the woodpecker. The only difference is that you will hear it coming from the ground. If it comes from somewhere high, it isn’t the toad.
Also, please note that giant toads typically make this noise to call mates during the breeding season. The months will vary from country to country.
Having mice and rats infestation is a disgusting yet common problem. These rodents can easily find ways between cracked walls and empty drainage pipes. So, if your house has this issue, the pecking noise might be produced by them.
They won’t exactly peck at the wood, but they will scratch the surfaces. When this noise comes from a distance, the repetitive scratching can sound like pecking.
4. Flying Squirrels
If you live in Canada, Texas, or Florida, chances are that the woodpecker-like sound is made by flying squirrels. These cute little buddies are active at night. You will find them zooming around with nuts and other food items.
So, it’s possible that they might drop nuts on your wooden house roof. Or they might scratch the surfaces that may sound like a woodpecker pecking.
1. What time of day are pileated woodpeckers most active?
Pileated woodpeckers are most active during the daylight hours. They are diurnal animals who sleep at night and work at night. So, if you want to watch them, explore the outdoors during the day.
2. What bird pecks at night?
There is no bird that pecks at night. Only a woodpecker pecks wood, and it rests during the night. They won’t peck at night under any circumstance. So, if you hear the pecking sound, it might be another nocturnal creature.
3. Do woodpeckers peck wood houses?
Yes, woodpeckers can peck houses. They usually like to peck wooden surfaces, but if there is a metallic panel or board, they will peck at it too. This is because metal creates a louder drilling sound, which helps them communicate better.
4. Where do woodpeckers sleep?
Woodpeckers sleep in hollow tree cavities. They like to build their own resting places in the trees, but if they find an abandoned nest, they will take over.
By now, we hope the answer to our main question – do woodpeckers peck at night – is pretty clear. Woodpeckers are diurnal birds who don’t peck at night. They are only active during the daytime hours.
However, if it is 4 a.m., you may find woodpeckers pecking. It’s because morning has officially started even when the sky is dark in some parts of the world. These birds don’t care about darkness as long as it’s morning.
If you hear a pecking noise at night (before 4 a.m.), check for other animals like raccoons, rodents, toads, and flying squirrels. You can call professional pest services to do a thorough inspection too. Good luck!