Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Woodpeckers: A Life of Hard Knocks


Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), also known as Zebra woodpecker. In males, both crown and nape are red; females only the nape.

Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), also known as Zebra woodpecker. In males, both crown and nape are red; females only the nape.

hen you think of woodpeckers, their drumming ability comes to mind. They can drum or peck at dead wood as fast as 20 and clock between 8,000 times per second and 12,000 pecks per day. That’s amazing!

The woodpecker has an industrial strength beak that allows it to bang its head all day against a dead tree trunk without did the same thing, we would have to hit our heads against a brick wall going 16 miles an hour and most likely would not survive.

Red-bellied woodpecker with a sea grape berry. feeling pain or incurring injury. Woodpeckers peck or drum for a variety of reasons. Drumming is to the woodpecker as hooting is to an owl. They drum to attract a mate; to carve out a nest; dig for insects; or simply to say, “This is my territory.” According to experts, when a woodpecker hits its head against a tree, it is exerting about 1,200 g’s of force. If humans

Red-bellied woodpecker with a sea grape berry. feeling pain or incurring injury. Woodpeckers peck or drum for a variety of reasons. Drumming is to the woodpecker as hooting is to an owl. They drum to attract a mate; to carve out a nest; dig for insects; or simply to say, “This is my territory.” According to experts, when a woodpecker hits its head against a tree, it is exerting about 1,200 g’s of force. If humans

According to MIT Professor Lorna Gibson, woodpeckers have tiny brains – just 0.07 ounce. Mother Nature has given the woodpecker a small-sized brain, cushioned with thick, spongy bone to protect it as it drums. The bigger the brain, the higher the mass, and thus, the higher the risk of brain injury. Another thing that protects the woodpecker’s head is the limited time the tree and the beak are in contact — just one-half to one millisecond. A typical human head injury happens in between three and 15 milliseconds.

Hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) Photos by Jim Robellard

Hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) Photos by Jim Robellard

This unique ability to absorb blows has inspired scientific research to help reduce injuries in contact sports such as football. Definitely, there is something to be learned from the woodpecker.

Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), with its crest, long neck and beak, is almost the size of a crow.

Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), with its crest, long neck and beak, is almost the size of a crow.

As woodpeckers chisel for insects, they have “goggles” in the form of a thick membrane to protect their eyes from flying woodchips. They also have bristly feathers over their nostrils to prevent them from inhaling wood particles.

To get the insects out, their tongues sometimes extend up to three times the length of their beaks. Most birds’ tongues only go to the tip of their beaks.

Woodpeckers live on tree trunks, clinging or hanging vertically and anchoring firmly with two toes forward and two toes backwards. Most other birds have three toes forward and one toe facing backwards.

The woodpecker’s tail feathers also have sharp spikes that dig into the bark of a tree and act as a tripod, which keeps them anchored as they chisel deep into a wooden trunk.

All woodpeckers are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The greatest threat to the woodpecker includes the loss of their habitat. If you are going to cut down dead trees, it is suggested that you leave five or ten feet as homes for the woodpeckers. The use of insecticides is also deadly to the woodpeckers’ food sources.

The next time you hear the familiar rattat tat of your backyard woodpecker, take a moment to admire this amazing bird.

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