Nov 27, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2019

Woodpecker Tidbits

Did You Know? Most woodpeckers have an X-shaped footprint. Also, they have nostril feathers to prevent inhalation of wood particles as they chisel.
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FEET: All woodpeckers have an X-shaped footprint. Most bird species have three toes pointing forward and a "thumb" pointing back, but woodpeckers, parrots, owls, and ospreys have zygodactyl feet, which means two toes point forward, and two point backward. This gives woodpeckers stability when clinging to tree trunks while they hammer their bills against it.

TONGUE: The base of a woodpecker's tongue is above its eye sockets. The tongue forks around the back of the bird's skull and extends through its lower bill. The long tongue provides cushioning to the skull as the bird hammers a tree trunk. The tip of a woodpecker tongue is barbed, better for snagging insects from within a tree, or for lapping sap. From base to tip, a red-bellied woodpecker's tongue measures more than nine inches when extended!

TAIL: A woodpecker's central tail feathers are extra stiff for support against a tree trunk. These feathers, along with stable, zygodactyl feet, provide the stability and balance of a three-legged stool.

NOSTRIL FEATHERS: Tiny feathers cover woodpeckers' nostrils to prevent inhalation of wood particles as they chisel.

SPECIES: Twenty-two species of woodpecker reside in North America, but species of woodpecker can also be found in Central and South America, Eurasia, and Africa.



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  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020
  • New to birding...newbie question. We spotted what we thought was a Sapsucker at our patio feeders in December. The folks at our birding supply store told us that Sapsuckers are only here in Summer months and what we saw was a Flicker. I thought I new what a Flicker was and this did not look like a Flicker. It was thinner and more smooth looking but did have the Woodpecker Bill.
    by Edmund Steinman, Wed, 08 Jan 2020
  • We just signed up and get your magazine via email. Will we be receiving a printed copy?Ed [email protected]
    by Edmund Steinman, Wed, 08 Jan 2020