Monday, 5 January 2009


A walk in Queen’s Wood near Highgate on Sunday afternoon.

We hear drumming.

A Woodpecker, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.


It flies from tree to tree.

It seems to choose different thicknesses of trunk or branch to tune the sound.

“The drumming sound often heard is the Woodpecker trying to attract a mate by vibrating its bill against a branch.”

Could the Woodpecker's percussive communication be a rare, or perhaps the only, example of non-human communication using a musical instrument?


Dubdog said...

It may not constitute as 'using a musical instrument' but rabbits repeatedly 'thump' their back legs on the ground as a warning signal.

Steven Ball said...

It seemed to me that the woodpecker was deliberately selecting particular branches for their acoustic properties, this and the idea that the drumming is performing the same function as song does in other birds, suggested that there was also some kind of what we might call 'aesthetic' decision making going on. Perhaps Thumper is doing something similar. Perhaps many animals use 'instruments' and I'm just anthropomorphising!