Around your hotel in the Central Valley, you might hear a bird that gives a high-pitched call sounding like laughter. You might also hear a rapid drumming sound. Looking for the source of these sounds will reveal a woodpecker with a zebra-striped back. This is the Hoffman’s Woodpecker, the most common of several species of Woodpeckers in Costa Rica.
A medium-sized woodpecker species, the Hoffman’s Woodpecker is grayish-brown with a black and white striped back. Males have red and gold colored patches on the head while females lack the red patch. In flight, they show a prominent white patch on the rump. For the most part, there are no other woodpeckers with a similar pattern in its range. South of Jaco, it is replaced by the very similar Red-crowned Woodpecker which lacks any yellow on the head.
Behavior in Costa Rica
Hoffman’s Woodpeckers in Costa Rica, like other woodpecker species, need dead and dying trees for nesting and foraging. They need the dead wood to excavate cavities and find grubs under the bark. Woodpeckers, Hoffman’s included, also utilize the dead wood to drum out their songs to delineate territories. Instead of singing like other birds, most Woodpeckers make a drumming sound by rapidly tapping with their beaks. Dead tree trunks are the best object to tap because the hollow trunk provides more resonance although some will utilize antennas and even wooden house siding if those “drums” serve their purpose. In addition to drumming, like many other woodpeckers, Hoffman’s Woodpeckers have a vocalization reminiscent of laughter. Hoffman’s Woodpeckers will also visit feeders for fruit.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the Hoffman’s Woodpecker is a common inhabitant of dry forest and open woodland of the northwest and Central Valley. It also occurs in parks and gardens of the Central Valley. They especially like parks with large trees that can provide the snags they need for nesting.