The Whiskered Woodpecker
Nature Monday’s – a random feature on this blog – topic is the woodpecker. There are over two hundred species of woodpeckers in the world, and they range from a slight three inches to twenty inches. The subject came to my mind because we wake every morning to the sound of pecking on our house. “No, hubby, you cannot shoot the woodpecker.” Instead he races out the door, yelling and waving his arms to chase the offender away. Some species are endangered—possibly the ones who enjoy cedar shingles.
The colorful woodpecker is a truly unusual bird. He is an omnivore, eating larvae, insects, nuts and seeds. She has a chisel-beak to peck holes in wood and a very long tongue to retrieve prey from deep holes. The woodpecker’s stiff, spiny tail acts as a prop for climbing. He has four-toed feet, two front and two back, that help him hold onto trees. Small whisker-like feathers around her nose prevent the bird from inhaling flying wood particles.
This species can peck twenty times a minute; they peck as many as 10,000 to 12,000 times a day. You would think the bird would hurt herself with all the pecking, but there are air pockets in her skull that prevent trauma. Pecking for hunting prey is erratic, but a rhythmic pecking is used for communication, especially during breeding season. The piliated woodpecker defends his territory by pecking along with a loud trumpeting call that sounds like a Tarzan jungle scream.
The red-bellied woodpecker stores acorns, nuts, and insects for later use. She covers her stash with vegetation to hide it from the piliated woodpecker who steals it. How smart are these birds? Though a thief, the piliated woodpecker is one of the rare birds who retrieve their eggs after the loss of a nest.
Fun facts: The woodpecker’s flight pattern is three wing flaps, then glide, three wing flaps, glide. These birds mate for life, which, depending on the species, can be from five to eleven years.
The next time you hear them drumming on your house, remember how extraordinary the woodpecker really is!