Interesting Facts About Woodpecker Bird For Kids
The woodpecker’s beak hits like a jackhammer. And, the bird still doesn’t suffer a head injury! Its tongue is about 3 times the length of the beak! Read on for more amazing facts about woodpeckers.
By Arun Sharma
The woodpecker is a marvel of nature. The colourful feathers, the red triangular crest on its head, the tough and sharp beak, the long tongue — all these make the woodpecker a unique bird.
And, there are many interesting woodpecker facts which makes this bird truly special. Let’s get to know a few of them:
Woodpecker species — interesting facts
- The woodpecker belongs to the family of birds called Picidae.
- The family is divided into 3 subfamilies — Jynginae, Picinae and Picumninae.
- The 3 subfamilies include more than 35 genera and 225 species of woodpeckers.
- Around 32 species of woodpeckers are found in India.
- The brown-capped pygmy woodpecker is found only in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
- The piculets are the smallest of all woodpecker species.
- The imperial woodpecker is the largest woodpecker. But, it is now believed to be extinct.
- The ivory-billed woodpecker can be called the world’s rarest woodpecker. It was believed to have gone extinct 50 years ago, but was again spotted a few years ago.
- Woodpeckers aren’t found in Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar and Antarctica.
- Woodpecker names are often derived based on their physical characteristics. For example, ivory-billed woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker and great spotted woodpecker.
Types of woodpeckers
Here are the pictures of some of the woodpeckers found in different parts of the world. The last two, great black woodpecker and lesser golden-backed woodpecker are found in India.
Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
Green woodpecker (Picus viridis)
Red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Rufous piculet (Sasia abnormis)
White-bellied woodpecker or great black woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis)
Black-rumped flameback or lesser golden-backed woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense)
Woodpecker physical features
- Body size: Like other birds, the size of woodpeckers of different species also varies. The size of the piculet, the smallest woodpecker, varies between 9 and 14cm, whereas the size of the imperial woodpecker is between 56 and 60cm.
- Head: Woodpeckers of most species have a relatively large head. But, why doesn’t the bird suffer brain injuries despite pecking at speeds of 20 times/sec or up to 12,000 times a day? It’s because, the woodpecker has a special bone called the hyoid bone, which absorbs shocks and protects the skull.
- Beak: The woodpecker’s bill is exceptionally sturdy. On average, a woodpecker hammers trees with its beak at 40kmph. Along with drilling holes, the beak, together with the cranium, absorbs and distributes the impact energy throughout the woodpecker’s body.
- Tongue: Another extraordinary physical feature of the woodpecker is its tongue. This organ is very sensitive and is almost 3 times the length of a woodpecker’s beak. So, how does the bird keep such a long tongue inside it’s mouth? Well, the woodpecker doesn’t keep its tongue in its mouth but wraps it around the skull. When the tongue is pulled in, it goes around the skull and over the eyes. The tip of the tongue rests in the right nostril. The tongue has small spiny structures and sticky saliva which help draw the food into the beak.
- Feathers: Red, black, white and yellow are the common colours of feathers of all woodpecker species. The feathers can also have olive, brown, orange and other hues. The feathers covering the nostrils of the woodpecker perform a special function. They work like a filter. Yes, these feathers catch all the wood particles thrown up as a result of the bird hammering the wood, thus preventing them going into the bird’s lungs.
- Tail: The feathers of a woodpecker’s tail are very stiff and there is a good reason for that. The tail acts like a brace, and together with the feet, supports the weight of the bird while it is drumming (pecking) at the bark or climbing up the trunk. There a number of muscles which support the tail feathers to make it stiff.
- Feet and claws: The woodpecker spends most of its time perched vertically against trees. It can do so because its feet and claws are especially adapted to support its weight. It has four toes, two of which point forward and two backwards. Each toe has a curved, sharp claw. The feet configuration and the claws help the bird grasp well and cling on to any structure.
Woodpecker behaviour and communication
Different species of woodpeckers behave in different ways. However, there are some behaviours that are common across all woodpecker species.
- Almost all types of woodpeckers are diurnal, which means they are active during the day.
- To live and nest, woodpeckers prefer areas where there are trees like forests and parks.
- Both male and female woodpeckers share equal responsibility — work together to build the nest, incubate the eggs and raise the chicks.
- The male woodpecker is very aggressive in defending his territory. The size of the territory varies from species to species, depending on the size of the bird.
- Woodpeckers peck at a variety of objects like tree trunks, fallen logs, electric poles, chimneys and trash cans.
- To drum, a woodpecker chooses the object according to its size. Larger woodpeckers choose large objects and smaller ones choose smaller objects.
- While drumming to stake claim to a territory, woodpeckers choose objects, which when drummed upon which will create more noise.
- Apart from drumming, woodpeckers also communicate through various types of calls.
- Woodpeckers are wild birds and aren’t friendly towards humans, so they do not make good pets.
Food habits of woodpeckers
- Woodpeckers are omnivorous. Together with insects like wasps, spiders and grasshoppers, their diet also includes berries, seeds and nuts.
- Most woodpeckers are opportunistic feeders. They also prey on other birds, eggs of other birds, lizards and other small mammals.
Woodpecker lifespan and baby woodpecker
- Woodpeckers usually lay between 2 and 5 eggs.
- Both the male and the female take turns to incubate the eggs for 11 to 14 days.
- After hatching, the chicks stay in the nest for 18 to 30 days, before they are ready to leave.
- Baby woodpeckers learn to do things by imitating their parents.
- The baby woodpeckers would grow up and live for 5 to 11 years in the wild.
Woodpecker in movies and literature
Woodpecker in movies
- Woody Woodpecker
- Fair Weather Fiends
- The Reckless Driver
- The Tree Medic
- The Redwood Sap
Poems on woodpecker
- The Woodpecker by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
- The Downy Woodpecker by John Burroughs
- The Foolish Woodpecker by Ed Blair
- Ode to a Woodpecker by Dean Walker
- Woodpecker in Disguise by Grace Taber Hallock
Stories on woodpecker
- The Tiger And The Woodpecker
- The Story Of The First Woodpecker
- Why The Woodpecker Pecks
- The Red-Headed Woodpecker Children
- The Woodpecker, Turtle and Deer
Woodpeckers do not drill into trees only to make nests but also to forage for insects and larvae. This way they not only keep the insect population down but also protect trees from pests. In fact, if a woodpecker is drilling into a tree, it could mean that the tree is infested with insects. Nature lovers should be on the look out for this sign from the woodpecker and swing into action to protect the tree.
Also, we should do everything that’s possible to protect the habitat of the woodpecker to help it survive and thrive.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 19 March 2020
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
Join our Circles to share, discuss and learn from fellow parents and experts!
More For You
More for you
Food Poisoning In Kids
Eating contaminated food can lead to food poisoning symptoms in kids. Here’s more on how to preve...
Is My Child's School Safe?
With the new academic year embracing us, it’s time to ask ourselves, ‘Is my child’s school safe?’...
Why Sleeping Before Exams Is Important For...
A good night’s sleep plays an important role in improving exam scores. Here’s why your child shou...