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Monday, October 13, 2008

Woodpeckers - amazing hunting abilities

  • A woodpecker can peck 20 times per second.
  • Most woodpeckers have four toes. Two face forward and two face backward. This arrangement is called zygodactyl.
  • Their short legs and sharp nails make it easier for them to cling to bark.
  • A straight, chisel-like bill is used to excavate holes in trees for nesting and roosting. It is also used for foraging insects, insect eggs and larva.
  • Very long tongues allow the birds to "worm" their way in to hard to reach places. There are hard, saliva coated bristles on the end of the tongue. These aid in grabbing the prey. The tongue can also be used for lapping sap.
  • All woodpeckers have a characteristic wing-beat pattern while flying: 3 flaps and glide, 3 flaps and glide...
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Piciformes
Suborder: Pici
Family: Picidae

The woodpecker's strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue, up to four inches in some species - with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects. The woodpeckers, piculets and wrynecks are a family, Picidae, of near-passerine birds . Members of this family are found worldwide, except for Australia and New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions. Most species live in forests or woodland habitats, although a few species are known to live in desert areas.

The smallest woodpecker is the Bar-breasted Piculet, at 7 g and 8 cm (3.2 inches). The largest woodpecker was the Imperial Woodpecker, at an average of 58 cm (23 inches) and probably over 600 g (1.3 lb). The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is (or was) slightly smaller at 50 cm (20 inches) and a weight of 500 g (1.1 lb). If both the Ivory-billed and Imperial Woodpeckers are indeed extinct, the largest extant woodpecker is the Great Slaty Woodpecker of Southeast Asia, at about 50 cm (20 inches) and 450 g (1 lb). The woodpeckers range from highly antisocial solitary species which are aggressive to other members of their species to group living species. Group living species tend to be communal group breeders. In addition to these species a number of species may join mixed-species feeding flocks with other insectivorous birds, although they tend to stay at the edges of these groups. Woodpeckers are diurnal, roosting at night inside holes. In most species the roost will become the nest during the breeding season.

The diet of these birds consists mainly of insects, such as ants and beetles, nuts, seeds, berries, some fruit and sap. Species may feed generally on all of these, or may specialize on one or two.


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