Why do woodpeckers peck?

Why do woodpeckers peck?

The Woodpecker is a tree-climbing bird with a strong beak. 

It lives in forests. It pecks at the bark of a tree to find its food, such as insects and insect larvae. It has a long tongue to catch insects. It also pecks on the tree to communicate with other Woodpeckers. 

Wood-pecking is hard work. To ensure that it has enough energy, the Woodpecker needs to eat regularly. Scientists think that it can eat 1,000-2,000 insects a day.

Nubian Woodpecker

The Woodpecker is a fast pecker. It pecks 20-25 times per second. That’s about 8,000-12,000 times a day. It pecks for several seconds then takes a rest before doing it again.

This means that its skull and neck, as well as its beak, are very strong. The tip of its beak is like a carpentry tool called a chisel that carpenters use to shape wood. Its beak is elastic. It also has a springy, cartilaginous bone, called a hyoid bone, in its throat and nasopharynx. Also, its skull has a type of shock absorber called cerebrospinal fluid which absorbs vibrations, as well as a spongy bone that absorbs the pecking movements. Even its eyeballs are protected from shock with a third eyelid.

The Woodpecker must hit the tree bark straight, and not on an angle, otherwise the shock absorption system won’t work. It uses its X-shaped feet (two digits pointing forward and two digits pointing backward) with sharp claws to hold the tree trunk tightly so that it does not slip. 

Nubian Woodpecker

Location of photograph: Tsavo National Park, Kenya

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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