About two summers ago, I was out gardening in my sister’s yard when one of her neighbors approached me with that sheepish air that told me that he was curious about something that was none of his business. He pointed to the large picture window in my sister and brother-in-law’s bedroom. We had put shiny little gel decorations that stick to windows and pieces of newspaper were haphazardly taped to the outside surface. The paper flapped in the breeze. “Are you, um.., redecorating?”
It was to discourage the Red-bellied Woodpecker who had taken to sitting in the aluminum gutters along the edge of the roof and hammering away at five every morning. In the afternoon, he would hop up the dogwood tree and lance himself at the window full force. The noise was a nuisance but we were worried that he would hurt himself while attacking the window. A bit of research and we found that the characteristic woodpecker drumming is a territorial signal. It’s not unusual for territorial species to attack windows. They mistake their reflection for a rival. As it happens, Mr. and Mrs. Red have a direct view of the picture window from the entrance of their home in the neighbor’s maple tree. The newspaper and window gels were put up in hopes of breaking up his reflection. He would also sit in front of the window and flap and put on an intimidating display.
After a few weeks, all of this stopped. Soon we saw Mr. and Mrs. Red accompanied by two little woodpeckers looking much like the parents, but lacking the red heads.
The following year, the drumming started again. Fortunately, the window attacks didn’t occur. I’ve come to the conclusion that they drum when they have young in the nest and stop when they fledge. I’ve noticed that Mr. Red has gotten aggressive with other birds recently, specifically Starlings, so I suspect it’s getting to be that time of year again.