About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fun Facts about Woodpeckers

- The contrasting black and white pattern found on the backs of many woodpeckers helps to conceal them from predators. Known as disruptive coloration, this sharp contrast in colors helps to break-up and conceal the shape and outline of a woodpecker as it climbs the side of a tree.

- Woodpeckers are among a very few birds that have zygodactyl feet – which simply means they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards. Most birds have an arrangement of three toes forward and one backwards. Having two sets of opposing toes gives them a much better grip on the trees they land on and climb.

- While excavating a cavity, a woodpecker’s head can strike a tree’s surface at speeds up to 13- 15 miles per hour and do it at over 100 strokes per minute. This is equivalent to a person crashing head-first into a tree while running at top speed.

- The barbed tip of a woodpecker’s tongue is very sensitive to touch and can both detect and impale insect larvae. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus that is secreted by large salivary glands; this coating helps to ensure that its prey does not slip away.

- Woodpeckers may find their hidden prey by sound and/or smell. As the woodpecker strikes the tree, hollow sounds may echo off of the tunnels (galleries) of wood-boring insects (like thumping a watermelon). When feeding on wood, grubs make an audible sound that could be heard by a woodpecker. Woodpeckers have a better sense of smell than most birds and may be able to detect the strong odor of the formic acid that ants, bark beetles and termites excrete (smells like Sweet Tarts).

- When threatened by predators, Downy Woodpeckers will freeze motionless against the trunk of a tree and will not return to normal activities for up to ten minutes.

- Bird banding longevity records for woodpeckers recaptured in the wild:
Downy - 11years - 11 months
Hairy - 15years – 11 months
Pileated - 12years – 11 months
Red-headed - 9years – 11 months
Red-bellied - 12years – 1 month
Northern Flicker - 9years – 2 months

Source: WBU Corporate Content

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