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.
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.
Location of photograph: Tsavo National Park, Kenya
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM