Do Woodpeckers Peck At Night? [No, They’re Asleep!]


Woodpeckers spend most of their waking hours pecking. They do so for food, roosting, and communication purposes.

This much pecking can be disruptive if it’s happening right outside your door. In fact, woodpeckers could even use the siding of your home to peck.

The good news is that woodpeckers aren’t likely to be making all that noise while you’re sleeping.

Woodpeckers don’t peck at night because that’s when they’re asleep. Like humans, woodpeckers sleep at night and are active during the day. They do spend the majority of their day pecking, though, as it’s important to their survival. There are other bird species who do call and make other noises at night.

Woodpeckers Are Diurnal

There are several ways in which organisms separate their periods of activity and rest. These are nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular, and cathemeral.

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Animals that are nocturnal, such as owls, are mostly active at night. Then there are diurnal animals who are active during the day and sleep at night.

Crepuscular animals are active between day and night, mostly at twilight. Finally, cathemeral animals are active during both periods of daylight and darkness.

Woodpeckers are diurnal animals. They spend their day foraging for plants and insects, and, in the right season, mating. They may also use that time to create the cavities in which they’ll spend the night.

Since they’re active during the day and sleep at night – much like humans – woodpeckers don’t peck at night.

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Woodpeckers Sleep In Cavities At Night

Most birds don’t sleep in the nests they build. Nests are for incubating eggs and raising young. Once they young are ready to go out on their own, the parents leave the nests as well

Instead of sleeping in nests, birds find various areas that will protect them from predators and the elements. Woodpeckers are famous for their cavity roosts.

Woodpeckers are primary cavity builders. Secondary cavity nesters don’t build their own homes, instead using the leftover cavities from the primary excavators. 

But woodpeckers excavate holes for themselves to sleep and for nests. Sometimes, however, they may use old cavities or any hole that provides cover.

They’ll even roost in nooks under the ledges of roofs, barns, and bridges. 

Woodpeckers Can Peck Loud And Hard During The Day

Not only do woodpeckers excavate holes in trees, but they also peck to forage for food. Pecking is an important part of a woodpecker’s life, and as such, they peck with skill.

Some woodpeckers can excavate precision holes into trees to hold nuts for storage.

All woodpeckers also use specific drumming rhythms to attract a mate and communicate.

Woodpeckers can drum up to 12,000 a day. All of this pecking and drumming would be hard on the brains of other animals. Such rapid, strong movements would bounce the brains against their skulls.

However, woodpeckers have special adaptations to handle the stress.

For a long time, scientists believed that woodpecker skulls had a shock-absorbing mechanism. But a recent study shows this isn’t the case.

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Instead, the size of a woodpecker’s brain is what protects it from damage. A woodpecker’s brain is 700 times smaller than that of a human.

Like a fly bouncing full speed at a window without injury, a woodpecker’s small brain can withstand the high decelerations.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck?

In addition to excavating holes in which to sleep, woodpeckers peck wood to forage for food. They don’t eat the wood they peck, though. Instead, they burrow into the wood with their beaks to eat insects and sap.

They also crack open nuts for additional protein, and even create holes to hold nuts in the tree bark.

Woodpeckers also use their pecking abilities to communicate. They don’t limit themselves to trees for this activity. Woodpeckers will drum on metal, telephone poles, and house sidings.

This form of communication is to warn predators away, stake out their territory, and attract a mate. The patterns of the drumming vary between different species as well as between different purposes.

Which Birds Are Active At Night?

Although woodpeckers are asleep at night, there are other birds who make noises while you’re trying to sleep.

The Eastern Whip-poor-will, for example, is nocturnal rather than diurnal.

They have a distinct call despite not being traditional songbirds. You can hear males calling in the night during their breeding season in the spring and early summer.

Owls are famous for being nocturnal, and the barred owl is no exception. Their call is common across large areas of eastern North American forests.

Not every bird you hear at night is nocturnal, however. Like woodpeckers, the yellow-breasted chat is a diurnal bird.

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But in the Eastern US, you can hear the yellow-breasted chat during the nights of their breeding season. They have a call that sounds like mocking laughter.

The upland sandpiper is also active during the day but may call during the night. These songbirds have a call that combines trilling and whistling.

In Conclusion

If a woodpecker chooses to make a home near your own, you may have to put up with a lot of noise. Woodpeckers will peck and drum almost all day.

You don’t have to worry about the noise at night, however. Because woodpeckers are diurnal, they’re sleeping at night just like you.

They do most of their pecking business during the day. So, even though they do make a lot of noise, woodpeckers won’t bother you at night with any pecking.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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