Amazing facts about woodpeckers

Stef Zisovska

Woodpeckers are definitely some of the most amazing birds on our planet. They can be found everywhere in the world except in New Zealand, Australia, and Madagascar. There are 200 woodpecker species that can be seen in the world’s forests. Woodpeckers are the carpenters and the constructions workers in the world of the birds, and the only ones that live in luxurious houses instead of twig nests. While all other birds collect sticks and dry grass to build their nests, woodpeckers drill directly into the thickets trees and get the finest wood to build their homes. Seeing a woodpecker in the wilderness is an awe-inspiring moment. Many wonder how is it possible that these awesome birds don’t hurt their necks and damage their brains while drilling trees all they long? If you want to know the answer to this question and other woodpeckers mysteries, read the following amazing facts.

Why don’t woodpeckers get brain damage?

A black-rumped flameback using its tail for support – Author: J.M.Garg – CC BY-SA 3.0
A black-rumped flameback using its tail for support – Author: J.M.Garg – CC BY-SA 3.0

An average woodpecker can hit the trunk up to 100 times in a minute, which means that during one day it makes 12,000 knocks. If a human being his a tree trunk even once, he or she would probably end up in the emergency room, while the woodpeckers spend their 10-year lives bumping their heads into trees all day long and they’re perfectly sane. Their brain doesn’t get damaged thanks to a bone that loops around their entire skull and serves as a protection for the brain. Also, the upper and the lower bill have different lengths that help in distributing the force instead of focusing it in one spot.

Woodpeckers have sharp tail spikes

Believe it or not, the woodpecker uses its tail as a third leg, digging in the tree bark with the spikes. When the bird is striking the tree, whether to find food or to carve a home, it holds on to the bark with its claws and its tail, acting like a tripod that adds stability to the operation. Their tails contain feathers of a different quality than the rest of their bodies, allowing them to remain on a tree as much as needed and help them with their tree-climbing possibilities.

Woodpeckers don’t have vocal cords

Red-crowned woodpecker – Author: Sharp Photography – CC BY-SA 4.0
Red-crowned woodpecker – Author: Sharp Photography – CC BY-SA 4.0

Both the males and females have the ability to peck trees, and none of them has vocal cords, so they use the pecking as a way of communication as well. It’s quite amazing to see how important the pecking for these birds is and how their behavior defines their name.

They have a flying pattern

All woodpeckers in the world fly according to the same pattern. Three wing snaps and a short glide through the air, and then all over again. This fly mode repeats always, and it’s followed by all the types of woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers are monogamous

A male black woodpecker attending its chicks – Author: Alastair Rae – CC BY-SA 2.0
A male black woodpecker attending its chicks – Author: Alastair Rae – CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most interesting facts about these hard-working birds is that they are monogamous, which means that they only mate with one partner for the rest of their lives. Both of them participate in building the nest inside the trees and raising the little chicks. The females always lay between two and five eggs. The incubation period lasts between 10 and 14 days, and one month after the little woodpeckers hatch they are ready to leave their parent’s nest and start a life on their own.

They have long tongues

The majority of woodpeckers have extremely long tongues so they can collect the insects from inside the hole they carve in the trees. With the large tongues, it’s easy for them to clean the inside of the wood’s bark.

They change their homes all the time

A woodpecker searching for a home
A woodpecker searching for a home

Woodpeckers are unstoppable nesting hole builders. They build new holes in the trees during the whole year and abandoning their homes all the time. This fact makes them perfect members of the animal “community” because what they actually do is giving ready-made homes to other small birds and animals like squirrels. It’s nice to have a woodpecker neighbor, right?

They have bristles on their nostrils

Woodpeckers have bristle type of hair on their nostrils that serves as a protection against inhaling wood particles. Nature is brilliant, isn’t it?

Their size varies

Ochre-collared piculet – Author: Dario Sanches – CC BY-SA 2.0
Ochre-collared piculet – Author: Dario Sanches – CC BY-SA 2.0

The size of the woodpecker depends on to which species they belong. Some of them can be up to four times larger than the others. The biggest woodpecker is the great slaty woodpecker, which can reach 20 inches in length, while the tiniest, the piculet, is only 3 to 4 inches long.

As you can see, woodpeckers are extraordinary birds that you find in almost all parts of the world. Next time you go on a hiking or camping excursion in the woods,  make sure to pay attention to the tapping sound that these little fellows make pecking the trees. Seeing a woodpecker in its natural habitat is a moment of true happiness for the entire family. Respect nature and good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival