Woodpeckers Relatives And People

People have historically used feathers from toucans and woodpeckers for ceremonial ornaments. Humans hunt many of the larger species for food. Woodpeckers and relatives play an important role in the forest ecosystem, helping to control insects and the cycle of decay and regrowth of plants and animals. The blue toucan is well known in some countries as the mascot for a popular breakfast cereal, while Woody the Woodpecker has been a popular cartoon character for many decades.


All woodpeckers tap or "drum" their bills rapidly against wood in order to defend their territory and to attract mates. This drumming is used instead of songs in most species. The length, speed, frequency, and loudness at which a particular woodpecker drums often identify a particular species. However, the quality of the drumming sound often depends on the type of wood on which the woodpecker is tapping.

Many homeowners, however, consider woodpeckers as pests because of the damage done to homes and other building structures by the use of their bills. For the most part, scientists regard piciform birds as beneficial to the environment. Toucans and barbets greatly help to scatter seeds. Woodpeckers help to control pest insects in forests, while holes pecked out in trees help other birds and some animals such as squirrels in finding nest locations.

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