This past week, the Corps crews have been working at Hidden Falls Regional Park, clearing invasive species. The weather has been warm and cold as spring teases us, but even as temperatures fluctuate, we have been hearing many different species of birds. We have been hearing chickadees, cardinals, and most commonly woodpeckers.
Woodpeckers are fascinating birds. There are about 2
dozen species of woodpeckers in the United States. The pileated is the
largest bird in the US, and the downy is the most common. Woodpeckers have all
kinds of specializations to aid their strange pecking habits. First,
their skull is reinforced and structured to spread the impact force to prevent
headaches from constant pecking. That is good news for woodpeckers,
because they do a lot of pecking: woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per
second, or a total of 8,000-12,000 pecks per day. They also have
zygodactyl feet, which means two toes face forward and two backward. This
arrangement helps them grip trees as they forage for food. They also have
incredibly long tongues used for grabbing the insects from the holes they peck.
Some species have tongues as long as four inches! Their tongues are
barbed so that their food sticks. As they create holes in trees, wood
particles fly off, but they have bristly feathers that lay over their nostrils
to ensure that no debris clogs their airways.
|Male downy woodpecker|
Look for signs of woodpeckers this spring. Rectangular holes in downed trees are characteristic of Pileated woodpeckers foraging for grubs. Keep your eye out for Downy woodpeckers with chickadees and nuthatches, as they participate in mixed flock dynamics. These special birds are always a sight to see.
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