Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Individuality in woodpeckers

Animals, like people, have unique sounds that allow them to recognize individuals. For example, you can hear a great spotted woodpecker calling in the first portion of this YouTube video below.

In another YouTube video, we see a great spotted woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do best…pecking at wood.

Woodpeckers peck (i.e. drum) to ward off rivals as well as attract mates. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, researchers examined drumming patterns between male and female great spotted woodpeckers. They found that the drumming pattern used by each woodpecker to peck at wood is often unique to the individual. In addition, males were found to drum faster than females but the number of drumming strokes within a roll did not differ. These findings suggest that woodpeckers may use variations in these temporal patterns to identify each other.  


Budka M, Deoniziak K, Tumiel T, Wozna JT. Vocal individuality in drumming in great spotted woodpecker—A biological perspective and implications for conservation. PLoS ONE. 13(2): e0191716, 2018.

Categories: Comparative Physiology

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