Nov 27, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2019

Woodpecker Tidbits

Did You Know? Most woodpeckers have an X-shaped footprint. Also, they have nostril feathers to prevent inhalation of wood particles as they chisel.
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FEET: All woodpeckers have an X-shaped footprint. Most bird species have three toes pointing forward and a "thumb" pointing back, but woodpeckers, parrots, owls, and ospreys have zygodactyl feet, which means two toes point forward, and two point backward. This gives woodpeckers stability when clinging to tree trunks while they hammer their bills against it.

TONGUE: The base of a woodpecker's tongue is above its eye sockets. The tongue forks around the back of the bird's skull and extends through its lower bill. The long tongue provides cushioning to the skull as the bird hammers a tree trunk. The tip of a woodpecker tongue is barbed, better for snagging insects from within a tree, or for lapping sap. From base to tip, a red-bellied woodpecker's tongue measures more than nine inches when extended!

TAIL: A woodpecker's central tail feathers are extra stiff for support against a tree trunk. These feathers, along with stable, zygodactyl feet, provide the stability and balance of a three-legged stool.

NOSTRIL FEATHERS: Tiny feathers cover woodpeckers' nostrils to prevent inhalation of wood particles as they chisel.

SPECIES: Twenty-two species of woodpecker reside in North America, but species of woodpecker can also be found in Central and South America, Eurasia, and Africa.



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