Over 22 varieties of woodpeckers are found within the borders of the Continental United States. Many are heard rather than seen. Among all avian species, the woodpecker stands alone.
No one bird can compete with the evolution of adaptations that this breed of winged creatures has endured.
Just imagine if a human had to chisel his food out of a block of wood with his nose? Only then can one truly appreciate the marvel of a woodpecker’s physical design. It has a hefty bill used for hacking into tree limbs, its skull is fortified to withstand the shock and its brain is cushioned by an unusual thick membrane.
For tree climbing, most woodpecker species have two toes placed forward and two facing back, giving it the power it needs to climb trees in search of food. This unusual grip also provides strength during the excavation of holes in trees. Another measure of stability is added by the stiff tail that serves as a third leg for bracing.
The woodpecker is thought to have a heightened sense of hearing that allows it to detect bugs burrowed underneath bark. And, it has an enhanced sense of touch in its tongue for feeling out insect borings.
However, there are many disparaging things written and spoken about this marvelous bird. Some have the mistaken idea woodpeckers harm trees by boring holes into them. The opposite it true. By eating bugs that destroy plants, they prolong a tree’s life. When building a nest, it carves out an opening to a preexisting hole it locates by tapping on the trees trunk. Typically, a dead tree will be chosen. If using a live tree, it’s one already hollowed out by decay. And, the abandoned nest left behind will be used by a variety of other birds and creatures for shelter and rearing their young.
Some people laugh at the habit of a woodpecker pounding on a metal down spout as proof of the bird’s limited intelligence. Far from mistaking the gutters for a tree, it is using the loud noise produced to signal its territory and as a mating call.
Woodpeckers are fond of suet, shell-less sunflower seeds, cracked walnuts, pecans and split peanuts. You can also attract these wild birds with specific sized nest boxes that should be bark covered and the bottom area lined with wood chips.
Enjoy your birds!
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.