red bellied woodpecker near its hole (do woodpeckers peck at night?)

Do Woodpeckers Peck At Night? (and Other Causes of Nighttime Noises)

Woodpeckers do not peck at night. They are diurnal, which means that they have a daily cycle with daytime activities, and they sleep at nighttime. Woodpeckers are not nocturnal creatures; they sleep throughout the night and wake up early to begin foraging for food.  If a woodpecker is a migratory bird, it will start its long flight in the early morning; woodpeckers migrate during the daytime.

Nevertheless, if you landed on this page because you hear some kind of repetitive knocking or drumming sound outside, we can help!  While your first thought might indeed be that this is a woodpecker, they do not peck at nighttime. Woodpeckers typically make loud knocking sounds using their bills to communicate, find food, show dominance, and attract mates.

They also create drumming sounds by rapidly pecking on larger dead trees or building roofs, electrical poles, and bridges. Otherwise, they will make these sounds like a form of defense against other birds or animals trying to encroach on their territory or steal from them. This sound can be heard from miles around during mating season and marks woodpecker territory.

So do woodpeckers peck at night? In general, woodpeckers do not peck at nighttime because it is something that they simply don’t need to do. Their bodies have a circadian rhythm that tells them to sleep at night and be active during the day. We will go over a few other scenarios of what is causing this woodpecker-like sound at nighttime.

Since woodpeckers live worldwide, hearing them pecking can happen just about anywhere. Many woodpeckers in Oregon have been found nesting in the sides of houses, which cause knocking sounds in the early morning hours.  So whether you live in Oregon, New York, Canada, or somewhere in the tropics, there will be a few woodpecker species in your area. We do not find woodpeckers in the following countries: Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the antarctic.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck?

They generally peck for five reasons. We will cover the question “Do woodpeckers peck at night?” below. Their pecking abilities are just one of the many fun woodpecker facts.

#1 Woodpeckers peck during the day as a mating call; any time, they will peck on a house that will Echo the sound of their drumming. Pecking on wood emits sound waves that travel far and can be heard from miles away. This amplification will allow potential mates to listen to the drumming noise.

#2 Woodpeckers peck to establish their territory.  When a woodpecker claims its territory, it will perch on a high point in the open, then loudly drum as though it was declaring that this land belongs to them. The loud noise of the drum

#3 Some species of woodpeckers also peck because they are looking for boring wood beetles on the dead limbs of trees. They also like to feast on termites, carpenter ants, and other insects. When the woodpecker pecks on a tree, it exposes these insects so they can eat them. This behavior can often cause damage to trees in urban areas when infestations are severe.

#4 Woodpeckers also peck holes in wood to excavate a  nesting cavity. A woodpecker needs about 60 cubic inches worth of space to build a nest. They find a nesting cavity by drilling holes in trees or buildings; this is where the bird will lay its eggs and protect them from predators such as owls and snakes.  However, many woodpeckers instead use tree cavities abandoned by prior generations.

#5 Many woodpeckers, like the Acorn woodpecker, will peck a hole and then store a cache of acorns, nuts, or seeds in there. Doing this helps them survive throughout the cold winter. While woodpeckers do not hibernate, some species that do not fly south for the winter reduce their metabolic rate and slow down in the winter.

What Time of Day Do Woodpeckers Peck? Do Woodpeckers Peck at Night?

Depending on why they are pecking will determine the time of day. Usually, they will begin foraging for food at sunrise. At the same time, the early morning hours are also a great time to find insects to eat. They will continue throughout the day, drumming for various reasons. If they see another woodpecker near their territory, they may begin a loud drumming sound that will help alert the other bird that it is their territory. If they are warning off predators or other woodpeckers, they will also do this at various times of the day. They do this for almost an hour and will continue with short pauses for several more hours if they still sense a predator. But “do woodpeckers peck at night”, the answer is “no”.

Do Woodpeckers Come Out At Night?

No, as we mentioned above, woodpeckers are not nocturnal creatures. They have a daily circadian rhythm where they stay busy and sleep at night. If you see a woodpecker chiseling at night, then that is probably an owl, not a woodpecker. If you are still wondering if woodpeckers are active at nighttime, then the answer is “no, they are not.” Owls are nocturnal creatures, while woodpeckers are diurnal. Most owls will find an old woodpecker hole and repurpose it as their own. They can often make the original woodpecker hole a little bit bigger.

What Is That Woodpecker Sound At Night?

If you hear a knocking pattern repeatedly in the nighttime, then it is probably not a woodpecker.

5 other things that can cause a knocking sound at night.

#1 It’s closer to the morning hours than you think.

Although often, when you are dead asleep, it may feel like the middle of the night; in fact, it is closer to the morning than you realize. If you hear a knocking sound at nighttime, then check to see what time it truly is; if it’s close to 5 am, then it could be a woodpecker.

#2 Amphibians do make mating calls at night time.

There are a few types of toads and frogs that are nocturnal. They have mating calls that often sound like you are knocking two balls together. There are cricket frogs that make a knocking-like sound and a marine toad that also makes a woodpecker-like sound. The thing about these amphibians is that they are nocturnal, so any noises they make will be at nighttime.

#3 Racoons are nocturnal and are often mischievous at nighttime.

Some people report a raccoon family that makes knocking sounds on their trash bins. The repetitive knocking can sound a little bit like a woodpecker.

#4 Mice or rats in your walls.

Remember that whenever you wake up in the middle of the night to a strange scratching noise, chances are you hear rodents in the walls. Mice and rats are nocturnal animals, meaning they’re most active at night. So if you’re hearing scratching or gnawing sounds coming from your walls, it’s likely that there’s a rodent problem. However, if the scratching sound is far enough away, it can sound like a woodpecker pecking since it is usually repetitive.

#5 Flying Squirrels can drop nuts, and it will sound like knocking.

A flying squirrel is very playful at nighttime and can do all sorts of things that can sound like a woodpecker pecking. If you live in an area with flying squirrels, they will be active at nighttime and can make a wide variety of sounds. They may even be dropping nuts in your attic above your bed, and it will sound like knocking.

Where do Woodpeckers Sleep at Night?

Woodpeckers sleep in tree cavities. They find an abandoned tree or a hole in a building to keep safe at night. Depending on the woodpecker species, they may also nest, especially Hairy Woodpeckers will choose cavities with branches for their nests. These are great nesting spots because it helps protect them from predators like snakes and owls, who can only get to the baby woodpeckers through a small opening.

a Pileated woodpecker taking care of its young

Woodpeckers often make new nesting holes each year. However, some studies found that some woodpeckers in the forests of Oregon were re-using old nesting cavities from prior woodpecker generations. Woodpeckers will sleep in birdhouses,  tree branches,  in a fire burnt forest, under the eave of a house. They will often sleep in the same tree cavity each night because many of them establish territories and don’t want to let another bird, animal, or even woodpecker take over their sleeping quarters. They will often become aggressive and fight off any other woodpeckers or birds coming too close to their nest.

Do Woodpeckers Sleep Alone At Night?

The majority of woodpecker species sleep alone in their small cavities. Many woodpecker species also have one cavity nest where they sleep and then another nearby cavity where they lay their eggs. The male woodpecker will often sleep alone in his tree hole. Here are a few examples of the various sleeping arrangements of some common woodpeckers.

Pileated woodpecker – The male and female birds will have their sleeping cavity. They will both take on parenting duties for about a month until the young fledglings leave the nest. However, they mate for life.

The Hairy woodpecker (one of the common NY woodpeckers) – Each male and the female bird will have their year-round sleeping cavity. Then they will make a third nesting cavity where the female lays the eggs, and the male will tend to the incubation during the nighttime. Both the female and male tend to the young during the day, and the female goes back to her nesting cavity to sleep at night.

Acorn woodpeckers – They flock together; the acorn woodpeckers are a group of birds with one of the most complex social structures. Both the male and female acorn woodpeckers take multiple mates. They’re cooperative breeders, meaning they live together and reproduce while helping raise their young in nestful colonies. Their offspring often stay close to both parents, helping raise the new young!

Hairy Woodpecker is a migrating bird
Hairy Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker in Oregon
Acorn Woodpecker

Red-Crowned Woodpecker – The male and female Red-Crowned woodpecker stay together for at least an entire year (if not more). However, they will sleep in separate holes.

Are Woodpeckers Nocturnal?

No, woodpeckers are diurnal, which means they are most active during the day. At night, woodpeckers rest in their cavity or sleep in a birdhouse. Woodpeckers can sleep upright with their head tucked under one of their wings; this is called bracing.

How Do Woodpeckers Know Where To Peck?

The pecking behavior of woodpeckers, including sapsuckers, is natural and genetically pre-programmed. Many of their pecks are exploratory woodpeckers who have innate genetic know-how that allows them to be born with the knowledge of pecking. Many of their pecks are exploratory if a woodpecker is pecking to search for food.

The birds search for insects and will peck in different areas searching for beetles and ants. On the other hand, the sapsuckers, which are also a type of woodpecker, will drill holes in living trees so that they can slurp up the sap. The sap also attracts insects which they will readily eat along with the sap.

What Do Woodpeckers Do In The Winter?

Some woodpeckers will migrate south for the winter, while others stay put in their regions.  Some woodpeckers like the Pileated woodpecker do not tend to migrate south. In the winter, they will hunker down in their nesting cavities. Biologists did find out the male Pileated woodpecker sleeps in a different nesting cavity than the female. Each woodpecker will often excavate their own sleeping nest, and the male is in a nearby nest.

Final Thoughts for “Do Woodpeckers Peck At Night? “

Woodpeckers are diurnal, meaning they have a daily cycle with daytime activities and sleep at nighttime. Hearing some sort of nighttime knocking often leads to people thinking that the sounds they hear are coming from woodpeckers pecking against trees, but this is incorrect! If you’re hearing some kind of repetitive knocking or drumming sound outside your home, it may be another animal like owls, nighthawks, raccoons, mice, or rodents.

Do Woodpecks peck at night? Nope – they’re just sleeping during the night time and out looking for food in daylight hours like most other birds do.