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“Partners will actually coordinate or cooperate with how they fight depending on who they are fighting. They size up their opponent and decide whether they need to work together,” Fuxjager said. “In short, it means an intruder woodpecker with a short drum is perceived as wimpier, while a long drum signifies a tough guy intruder.”
What they found is that if you present a breeding pair of woodpeckers with a longer drum from a more aggressive intruder, the pair begins to coordinate their territorial defense behavior and coordinate how they attack the intruder; whereas, a shorter drum from a weaker intruder meant that the resident pair didn’t bother to coordinate a response.
Overall, Fuxjager said these findings, recently published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, provide insight into aggressive behavior in birds in general and how individuals coordinate behavior to accomplish shared goals or tasks
Wake Forest assistant professor of biology Matthew Fuxjager says their drumming is actually used as a social device to communicate or to assess the potential danger of threatening rival males , if a rival has a short drum he's seen as less threatening that a rival with a longer drum , kinda makes sense really.