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.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fun Facts on Woodpeckers

  • A Pileated Woodpecker "drums" on hollow trees with its bill in order to claim territory.
  • A group of pileated woodpeckers are collectively known as a "crown" of woodpeckers.
  • Beetle larvae make up about one-third of the Pileated Woodpecker’s natural diet. Ants are the next most important food item.
  • 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 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.
  • In order for woodpeckers to survive the 10G’s of force that they can sustain with every blow against a tree, they have the following special adaptations:
    -The bones between the beak and the skull are joined by a flexible cartilage, which cushions the shock of each blow.
    -The skull is made of spongy, air-filled bone and the brain is packed very tightly into the brain cavity, with little room to rattle around during impacts.
    -The shear force from each blow is directed not to the brain, but downward towards very strong neck muscles that act as shock absorbers.
    -A woodpecker’s head and body are always in a perfectly straight alignment when hitting a tree to avoid breaking its neck.
  • 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.)
  • If you want to provide good habitat for woodpeckers, consider leaving the dead tree snags in and around your yard.
Related Articles: 
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/tcKasp
- Michigan made suet feeders: http://bit.ly/rbKskX
- How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tJ7e6S
- Fun Facts about Woodpeckers http://bit.ly/tQ5lwt
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI

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