Friday, January 29, 2010

Woodpeckers Part 1

Last Saturday, Alex and I went to a "talk and walk" about woodpeckers. I loved this class and learned so much! So, I thought I'd share with all of you a little lesson about woodpeckers. (Below is a photo of a stuffed pileated woodpecker which was on display at this class.)

How are woodpeckers unique?
  • HEAD
    • powerful bill
    • feather tufts around nostrils to protect from debris while pecking wood
    • specialized skull to withstand enormous impact of pecking
  • TONGUE (I've posted about their tongues before)
    • long (extremely long in some types)
    • attached near the nose and wraps around the back of the head (wow! Google for images)
    • tip is pointed and has stiff barbs so it can pull "things" out of the holes
  • TAIL
    • 6 sets of retrices (tail feathers) which are genearlly stiff
    • inner pair of tail feathers is longest and pointed at tips - this helps support the woodpecker as it climbs up a tree
  • FEET
    • perching birds have 3 toes that go forward and one that goes backward while woodpeckers often have a zygodactyl foot - where 2 toes go forward and 2 toes go backward. This helps the woodpecker to grasp the bark of tree trunks (rather than perch on a limb). A more recent find is that some woodpeckers have ectropodactyl feet which means they can MOVE their toes into the position they want them!
    • drumming - to mark territory or for attracting a mate
    • calls - their songs
    • many woodpeckers are keystone species (meaning of great importance) becasuse they are a primary cavity nesting species (meaning they actually MAKE the cavity in the tree which other birds and other animals will later use)
    • woodpeckers cause lots of damage to manmade structures (and we chop down the dead trees they need for homes!)
    • people used to eat woodpeckers - here is a great quote from John James Audubon regarding the eating of the Pileated Woodpecker
      • Its flesh is tough, of a bluish tint, and smells so strongly of the worms and insects on which it generally feeds, as to be extremely unpalatable.


live4evermom said...

Ok I'm not eating one. Not that I was planning to but if times got really, really tough, I'll look for something else. hahaha

Rhonda said...

Such great info. We learned all about woodpeckers when we were studying backyard birds. The tongue was what fascinated us the most. Just wow!

Robin said...

You know? I know they do a lot of damage, and Lord knows we have tons around here, but I love them. I get so excited when I see them in our yard.
Unfortunately, I've never gotten a good picture because my zoom is not good enough. Maybe this Spring I can try it with my new camera.
I'm looking forward to bird season. Aren't you?

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