This bird’s not picky about pecking
Tuesday, May. 27, 2014

This bird’s not picky about pecking

This morning a red-headed woodpecker is trying desperately to make a home somewhere in our gutter system.

The bird’s name implies that he’s not fond of aluminum, but this guy isn’t at all picky when it comes to pecking.

I wouldn’t mind so much about the woodpecker if he didn’t keep such a regular schedule. By 6:30 a.m., he’s jackhammering away. Even on Saturdays.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that when the woodpecker wakes us up, he wakes up our three children as well.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that on this particular morning I had really wanted to sleep. One of those three children is especially excitable around holiday time. He just can’t sleep if he knows the Easter Bunny is coming soon.

Last night he was up at 1:30, 3 and 5:30 a.m. So when the woodpecker started an hour later, I was ready to shoot whatever red-headed thing came into my sights first.

Thankfully, the children are blond.

Phil gets up and pounds on the wall where the sound seems to be coming from. The hammering abates. Phil returns to bed. The baby monitor indicates no sounds of stirring in the nursery. We could feasibly squeeze in eight, maybe nine minutes of snoozing before the next auditory onslaught.

Maybe the woodpecker isn’t trying to annoy us. Maybe he’s sending us a coded message: “You … will … never … get … a … good … night’s … sleep … again.”

It’s our fault, really.

First, we had children.

Then, because we thought it would be precious for the children to gaze at birds from the window, we installed bird feeders by the deck, right below our bedroom.

Our builders were complicit in this: They installed gutters.

But I’m wondering why this woodpecker seems more interested in the gutter than, say, the trees ringing the yard. Or the wooden play set, the deck or any of the other nine wooden surfaces available in this vicinity.

Perhaps there’s some aspect of evolutionary biology I’m overlooking, like that this bird appears more attractive to mates when he’s pecking on metal.

Maybe he’s the ornithological equivalent of a weightlifter, and pounding away at the side of our house is like saying, “Hey, look how much I can bench press!” I know I’ve never found Phil more attractive than when he’s pounding on the closet wall and yelling at a bird.

Man has developed a biological defense mechanism against such racket. When my 80-year-old father-in-law visits, he sleeps without interruption, thanks to hearing loss.

I wonder when woodpeckers sleep, and, more importantly, where. One of these days I’m going to find me a woodpecker snug in his bed and start up a Weed Eater right outside his door.

That’ll teach him to peck on our gutters. Then we’ll get some sleep.

Knock on wood.

Erica Batten is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Erica? Email her at

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