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Fun Facts About Woodpeckers

Considering the pounding it takes, why doesn’t a woodpecker’s bill wear down to a ragged nub? Wear down it does, but special cells on the end of the bill are constantly replacing the lost material. This keeps the chisel-pointed bill strong and resilient, while actually allowing it to be sharpened with every blow.

Woodpeckers use their stiff tail feathers for extra support when digging for insects or hollowing out a nest in a tree.

A woodpecker’s pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid. The tail bone, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are also large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker’s tail to serve as a prop that supports their weight as they climb and cling to trees.

Woodpeckers rarely climb down trees, their stiff tail feathers and relatively short legs are much better adapted for climbing upward instead of down.

The contrasting black and white pattern found on the backs of many woodpeckers helps to conceal them from predators. Known as disruptive coloration, this sharp contrast in colors helps to break-up and conceal the shape and outline of a woodpecker as it climbs the side of a tree.

The barbed tip of a woodpecker’s tongue is very sensitive to touch and can both detect and impale insect larvae. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus that is secreted by large salivary glands; this coating helps to ensure that its prey does not slip away.

Most woodpeckers’ tongues are two to three times longer than their bills.

The base of some woodpeckers’ long, retractable tongues reach entirely around the back and top of the skull and end behind the right eye socket.

To prevent small bits of debris from entering their nostrils while excavating trees, woodpeckers have tufts of stiff feathers growing over both nostrils.Woodpeckers have a third eyelid to help protect their eyes from debris while drilling into trees.

Woodpeckers have a thicker skin than most other birds, an adaptation that has probably evolved from their constant contact with the rough bark of trees.

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