Question: I have recently installed a new metal flagpole and now have a woodpecker that has figured out how to land on the pulley and pound on the flagpole itself. Why would he do this?
Answer: The behavior you are describing is called drumming. Woodpeckers do this for two reasons. One is to attract a mate and the other is to establish a territory. Your woodpecker has taken advantage of the resonance of the flagpole to broadcast his message to a larger territory. I know of no foolproof way to stop this. Tying streamers to the flagpole may help, but seems to be effective only 50% of the time. I have also been told that covering the area with burlap will dull the sound and perhaps encourage the woodpecker to move on. The last method I can suggest would be to play the call of a bird eating hawk that lives in your area when you hear the woodpecker drumming. Bird eating hawks would be in the Accipiter family. They are the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk and the Northern Goshawk.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also have an easily recognized drum. They start with a great drum roll (Ringo Star would be jealous), pause then adds some slower beats. A neighboring sapsucker may start his drum roll during the pause. Thus territories are established and neighbors recognized. Different woodpecker species have a different rhythm to their drumming. Pileated Woodpeckers drum very rapidly approximately 15 times per second with a burst of speed at the end of each rotation. They also have a form of commutation with a double tap near a prospective nesting site. They also use a specific series of taps from within the nest cavity to communicate with their mate.
Learn more by reading “Attracting More Birds at a Glance.”