The curious woodpecker

I was quietly enjoying my research this morning when a visitor came to my second-floor office window.

It was a pileated woodpecker, clinging to the window frame as he peered in.

He just sat there, looking at me, and I stared back. He wasn’t pecking, he just looked and looked. At me, at my office, around the window.


When I moved to get my camera, he flew over to the nearest tree. I watched him in the yard as he pecked on one tree and then another.

Next, I heard the scratch and tap as he landed at another windowsill. And another. I ran around the house trying to see where he was, but he didn’t stay very long in any one spot.

I got out my video camera just in case he came back to the office window. Seconds later, he re-appeared there.

Here’s the video:

A short while later, he was at the window of the guest bedroom across the hall from the office. I stood there and watched him for awhile. Soon after, he was at the windows of the sunroom, first one window, then a tree, then another window. Just looking in. When Tom came out, he flew away for good.

The naturalist in me seeks an explanation for this behavior.

I already knew that woodpeckers will peck on houses in the holes made by carpenter bees; they’re seeking the juicy larvae of the bees. They’ll also go after termites – so, if you don’t have carpenter bees, the woodpecker can serve as an termite warning system.

This bird, though, wasn’t steadily pecking on the house. He was just flying around, made a quick tap as he landed at the windows, and then hung out to look in.

Woodpeckers will also drum on wood of any type, as a territorial signal to other woodpeckers. “Mine! Mine! Mine!” their drumming says.

I’ve often heard woodpecker drumming, and it’s steady and long. This bird wasn’t doing that, either.

Many birds will be confused by their own reflection in glass, and think that they are confronting a competing bird. I’ve watched cardinals viciously attack my car’s rear-view mirror for that reason.

But this woodpecker was not confused and was not in attack mode. With the screens in and the sun well away from hitting most of the windows, I doubt that he had a clear reflection of himself.

I guess he may have just been exploring the house as a possible home base, though I have no backing from bird behaviorists on this idea.

While researching the science, I came upon the traditional explanations of woodpecker behavior.

Native American tales cast the woodpecker as industrious, frugal, and opportunistic. A woodpecker’s appearance generally is a good omen.

The Spirit Animals site had this to say about a woodpecker who comes knocking:

Woodpecker is letting you know that it is time to really pay attention because opportunity is has come knocking along with it. It is signaling you that great changes are happening in your life and it is up to you to seize the moment. Whether it is the renewal of an old project, the finishing of a new project or simply a serendipitous meeting with someone in your life. Whatever way you perceive it know that the door is wide open for you right now and that success is your for the asking.

Another site that examines messages from the spirit world, Exemplore, says the woodpecker is a sign to pay closer attention. “Hello? Anybody home?”

If the woodpecker spirit guide comes to you with a message, you must examine whether your life has become stale … as stale as wood. Perhaps woodpecker is here to shake you up a bit, poke some holes into your hard, dry exterior.

A few years ago my friend Sara gave me a beautiful birthday card, illustrating the woodpecker as the symbol of my birthday’s sun sign, Cancer. As a pagan pantheist blogger Magick Millenial explains,

Woodpeckers are usually the most nurturing of all the Native American animal symbols. The consummate listener, totally empathic and understanding, the Woodpecker is the one to have on your side when you need support… Another proverbial feather in the Woodpeckers cap is the tendency to be naturally frugal, resourceful, and organized.

Woodpeckers who visit us can point out the need for creativity in a project, or to have trust in our gut feelings, Magick continues.
“When this bird comes pecking, it is a call for us to return to our roots, back to the womb of our ideas and use our intellect and discernment to follow through with our plans.”

Magick Millenial offers a list of actions to take after a woodpecker’s visit:

  • Fly back to your roots.
  • Shelter your wisdom from predatory threat.
  • Nurture your ideas in the womb of your core passions.
  • Communicate your ideas in more creative or non-traditional ways.
  • Stop and consider the opportunities available to you at this time.
  • Look at projects in unique creative ways to bring new life to a project.
  • Use your head (intellect) to think up innovative solutions to overcome barriers.
  • Listen more clearly to subtle energies; there is a message that only your intuition can interpret.

I’ll probably never know what the bird actually intended to accomplish by looking in my windows. But this is pretty good advice, in any case.

Today’s penny is a 2015, when Magick Millenial wrote this post.

4 thoughts on “The curious woodpecker”

  1. As I was reading about your experience, I was thinking to myself, “That is not only amazing, it has some spiritual significance.” I was so glad as I read on that you felt that also and explored avenues of understanding.

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