Woodpecker exhibits various characteristics just like other birds for their survival. One of the most prominent features of this wood ramming bird is its exceptional tongue. The woodpecker tongue is an outrageous anatomical feature that reveals much more than taste.
Woodpecker is a small bird that belongs to the family Picidae. This family also includes a subfamily Picinae which consists of almost 200 species of true woodpeckers. The family also includes sapsuckers, wrynecks, and piculets. The woodpeckers are widely distributed around the world except in Australia and New Guinea. As they possess a wide variety of habitats so they have become highly adapted in terms of their skull, brains, feet, tails, and tongues all uniquely honed for drumming a bark.
This article discusses the INTERESTING FACTS about the tongue of the woodpecker and astounding information about other adaptation that will blow your mind.
Facts about the Tongue of Woodpecker & Adaptations
The physiology of woodpecker from head to toe has evolved with time to spend a life of pecking trees. The organs are adapted in such a way that not only protects it but also helps to survive ver efficiently.
Among all the adaptations & organs woodpecker’s tongue is one of the most bizarre features in the world that helps them to peck trees and also protect their brains
1. Woodpecker Tongue occupies 1/3 of Body:
As mentioned above one of the most extraordinary features of a woodpecker’s physiology is its tongue. It is almost three times longer than its beak and equals to 1/3 of its body.
In green woodpecker, the tongue is estimated to be 10mm long that one-third of its entire body. One of the interesting questions that arise is the fact that how this long tongue is adjusted in their small mouth?
Well!! This long outrageous tongue wraps itself around the skull. That is the tongue beyond the skull over the eyes and rest into the nostrils.
Moreover different species of woodpecker have slightly different tongue adapted according to their lifestyles. Some have smooth tongues and some have bards on their tongues to crave the tress bark more deeply.
2. The tongue of Woodpecker -A Helmet:
It is strange how woodpecker’s tongue rests in its skull. But this adaptation helps them to protect their head from injuries during their pecks. The tongue wraps around the skull and acts as an insulator and a shock absorber during the repeated pecks. It also protects their brains from serious head injuries.
So it acts as a helmet in protecting their brains.
An apparatus called The Hyoid is made up of bones, muscles, cartilage, and soft tissues that allow these birds to adapt perfectly and protect them from sufferings.
3. Size of Woodpecker Tongue:
There are almost 200 species of woodpecker. Not all of them have the same size and structure of the tongue. Some have smooth tongues, some have barbs on the tongue and some have a brush-like tongue. It depends on their mode of diet and foraging.
Pileated, a woodpecker that excavates intensely into the bark of the tree has a shorter tongue with the spear-like tip with spikes facing backward.
Northern Flicker has a flattened tongue as it forages on the ground only.
Sapsuckers have a brush-like tongue that can hold the sap of the tree by the capillary action. Other species of woodpeckers that feed on the surface and fissures of trees have long tongues with bristles at the top of it. This can help them eat easily.
4. Skull :
Not only the tongue of the woodpecker but the skull is also adapted to protect their brains from a rough lifestyle. The skull is enlarged and holds the brain above the area that receives most of the pecking jerks.
Moreover, bones on the front of the skull help to reduce the concussions of ramping the tree. Muscles present on these bones absorb jerks and shock of hammering.
5. Zygodactyl Feet:
Woodpecker’s tongue is not the only extraordinary feature in its body. Although it has many characteristics zygodactyl feet is one of the prominent features. Many songbirds exhibits feet with two toes that face forward and one toe that faces backward. But woodpeckers have two toes faced forward and two toes backward.
This adaptation helps them to grip trees firmly while they are pecking their tongue and beak into it.
They also have a strong tail feather that supports them to hold on the tree.
6. Woodpeckers have deadly beak:
Just like the tongue of woodpecker, its beak is also adapted well enough to peck the wood and get food.
This beak is not just a tool to capture food but it is a deadly weapon that can smash the skull of other birds’ without a second stroke and slurp their brains.
Although these birds are small but are packets of great strength and power.
For instance Zombie woodpecker that lives in a desert specifically Sonoran desert, where water is so scarce that woodpecker roams around to find something to drink. So when they find some doves they smack their head and drink all the liquids present there.
7. Incredible Speed:
Woodpeckers have a very incredible speed of striking. They are masters of their abilities. They can strike up to 7 meters per second which is equals to 15 miles per hour. Moreover, a woodpecker can make 20 rhythms of pecks in a second and 12000 pecks a day.
This is quite unbelievable for a small bird like this.
Due to this high-speed pecking, various layers and of course the extraordinary woodpecker’s tongue protects the skull
8. Harmful proteins in Brain:
When we hear that some harmful protein has accumulated in the brain we thought about brain damage or some kind of injury that will harm the brain. But woodpecker has adapted themselves in a way that they can live with them in a mutualistic way.
For example, a neurologist has discovered that a protein known as tau is toxic to human brains but do not harm woodpecker’s brain. Further, it surrounds the axon of woodpecker’s neuron that helps to absorb shocks and protect the brain from pecks.
But sometimes this excessive protein in the brain for a prolonged time can damage their brains too by weakening the neurons. This damage can cause forces and repeated trauma in the head.
9. Diet of Woodpecker:
These birds are opportunistic omnivores. They use their spectacular tongues and extraordinary and powerful beaks to take benefit of anything available. Their diet can range from insects, berries, nuts, and seed to eggs of other birds, bones of beef, and bacon. These birds also prey on reptiles, birds, and other invertebrates.
They consume food from trees through pecking which is technically known as “drumming” to consume the tree sap. Some woodpeckers use their tongue to capture small insects hidden in the bark
Facts about Woodpeckers:
- Woodpeckers’ nose has feathers that protect them so when they peck dust and splinters cannot enter their nostrils.
- Woodpeckers are perfectionists. They carve they nest very precisely in the tree in a way that entrance is perfectly circled in shape.
- They create new nests each year.
- The most common color of woodpeckers is yellow, white, red, and black.
- The largest woodpecker around the world is the great slaty woodpecker of Southeast Asia. It is almost 20 inches in length.
- Piculets are the smallest woodpeckers. They are only 3 to 4 inches long. Unlike their size, they exhibit a strong extraordinary tongue.
- The average lifespan of a woodpecker is 4 to 12 years. Some may live for 20-30 years in ideal situations.
- A woodpecker’s tongue is 4 inches long but it highly depends upon the species.
- They are the most common birds and roam in urban areas as well.
Woodpeckers are a spectacular creation of nature. They adapt themselves in such a beautiful as well as strange way that will make you rethink about the facts you thought about these astounding birds.
The way their body is modified is beyond the words. The formation and adaptation of the tongue of woodpecker and its ability to protect them from pecking jerks are marvelous. Not only the tongue but other organs including the brain, skull, feet, and feathers have adapted themselves in such a way that is remarkable and allows them to spend their lives easily.