Facts about woodpeckers

17 Facts About Woodpeckers That Will Surprise You

Here we are covering fun facts about woodpeckers! There are over 210 different species of woodpeckers globally, and you can find them on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Woodpeckers are exciting creatures with some pretty extraordinary abilities! Keep reading to dive deep into fun facts about these fascinating birds! This article will discuss 17 facts about woodpeckers that you may not have known.

Fun Facts About Woodpeckers!

Most people think woodpeckers are just boring birds that peck on trees. Woodpeckers are unique and exciting birds. They have specially adapted bills and tongues which allow them to extract insects from tree bark.

With over 200 species, woodpeckers come in various shapes and sizes, and you will find them worldwide. A woodpecker plays an essential role in the ecosystem by helping to keep trees healthy by eating insects.

There Are No Woodpeckers in Australia – Cool Facts About Woodpeckers

One of the most astonishing facts about woodpeckers is that there are none in Australia. The island of Australia does not have trees like cedar, oak, cypress, and fir. It’s these trees that help a woodpecker thrive and survive. 

Australia’s most common trees are the Acacia estrophiolata, commonly known as ironwood. They are tough trees, often remarkable for making fenceposts but unsuitable for a woodpecker to forage for beetle larvae!

There Are No Woodpeckers in Madagascar – Another Fun Fact About Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers eat a lot of insects and help control the population of insects in many regions. In places like Madagascar, where there are no insects, plenty of other animals fill the insect-eating gap. Madagascar has plenty of aye-aye’s, which eat beetle larvae and other insects by the thousands!

Woodpecker’s Unique Skulls Allow Them to Use an Energy Dissipation Technique 

Woodpeckers can transfer the energy from the pecking and direct it into the rest of the body. This energy transfer happens because of the woodpecker’s unique skull anatomy.

When a woodpecker hits a tree, they turn the impact energy into strain energy in the bird’s body. But the woodpecker’s unique anatomy, including a specialized beak and skull, redirects most of the strain into the rest of the body. If there is too much strain on the head, it can be catastrophic. 

Now, 99.7% of the strain energy is converted in the bird’s body, and only 0.3% is converted in the head. The bird will dissipate the small amount of strain from the head as heat. This process protects the bird’s brain.

However, because this process causes the temperature inside of the woodpecker’s head to rise, they usually take frequent breaks while pecking. Taking breaks allows the temperature inside of their head to lower.

Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches – Facts About Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers don’t get headaches, and it’s all thanks to their tongues and unique anatomy. Their unique skull anatomy will absorb and dissipate the shock of the repetitive pecking.

Not only does their anatomy help them to transfer the energy as we talked about above, but the tongue also cushions their brain. So yeah, this might be one of those fascinating facts about woodpeckers!

If you look at a woodpecker’s skull, you’ll notice that it’s unique in that its hyoid bone anchors the woodpecker’s tongue. The tongue is like no other animal in that it’s incredibly long and can wrap around the woodpecker’s skull.

When the woodpecker contracts the muscles surrounding the hyoid bone, it doesn’t just cause the woodpecker to stick out its tongue. That tensing-up action also helps tightly secure the skull and spine as the woodpecker’s beak collides with a tree. In the same fashion as a seat belt keeps you from flying forward if someone slams on the brakes.

That’s why woodpeckers don’t get headaches, even though they’re constantly banging their heads against trees!

Woodpeckers Sleep at Night

Most people are familiar with the sound of a woodpecker pecking away at a tree. Many people don’t know that woodpeckers actually don’t peck at night.

Their bodies have a circadian rhythm that tells them to sleep at night and be active during the day. Depending on why they are pecking will determine the time of day. Usually, they will begin foraging for food at sunrise. At the same time, the early morning hours are also a great time to find insects to eat.

If they see another woodpecker near their territory, they may begin drumming. So next time you hear a woodpecker pecking away, remember that it’s probably during the daytime!

Acorn Woodpeckers Store Their Stash in Tree Holes

There are many different types of woodpeckers, but the Acorn woodpecker (a common is unique because it stores acorns in individual holes. This behavior, known as caching, helps the Acorn woodpecker survive the winter during food scarcity.

In the California Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, acorn woodpeckers often store their acorns in granaries, trees with multiple holes drilled into them. Each acorn is carefully placed into a hole and then watched over by the communal woodpecker group. The Acorn woodpecker will often have several granaries containing a stash of acorns.

The woodpecker can fly to the granary and extract one from the hole when the acorns are needed. This intelligent behavior ensures that the acorn woodpecker always has a supply of food, even during tough times.

Woodpeckers Have a Tongue That Wraps Around Their Head – One of the Best Facts About Woodpeckers

Most woodpeckers have a unique long tongue that allows them to forage for insects and sap deep inside tree holes. The tongue can wrap around the woodpecker’s head and is often longer than the bird’s beak!

The tongues and extra plates of spongy bone in the front and back of a woodpecker’s skull help protect the bird’s brain. The softer bones and wrap-around tongue help absorb and distribute the shock each time a woodpecker strikes a tree.

Don’t just see this as one of those weird facts about woodpeckers but think about how amazing it is that the woodpecker has evolved to have such a specialized tongue!

Woodpeckers Have Zygodactyl Feet 

5 different types of bird feet, including the zygodactyl feet of most woodpeckers and parrots
Some common bird feet: Although not shown are the Three-toed woodpecker feet.

Woodpeckers, like parrots, have zygodactyl feet. What are zygodactyl feet? They are when two toes point forward, and two toes point backward. This type of foot gives the woodpecker a better grip on trees, and they are how a parrot can easily hold objects.

The zygodactyl feet also help the woodpecker easily climb up and down tree trunks. The two toes that face backward are used as brakes when the woodpecker is descending a tree. There is an exception: the Three-toed woodpecker only has three toes; two toes face forward and one backward. So this arrangement still gives them a climbing advantage.

The woodpecker’s zygodactyl feet perfectly adapt to their arboreal lifestyle and help them quickly move about in the trees. Some people think this is a weird fact about woodpeckers, but it’s part of what makes them unique!

Woodpeckers Drum on Trees to Communicate

One of the most exciting facts about woodpeckers is that they use drumming to communicate. Many times they will use metal objects to amplify the sound.

They use the drumming to claim territory, attract mates, and warn other woodpeckers of danger. Many also think they use sound to communicate with other animals, such as squirrels.

Woodpeckers are boisterous birds, and you can hear their loud drumming in forests, neighborhoods, and cities.

The Pileated Woodpeckers Mate for Life

Pileated Woodpeckers Mate for Life - a pair of Pileated woodpeckers on a tree

Pileated Woodpeckers are unique in that they stay with the same mate for life and only have one clutch per season. The male and the female bird will switch on and off, incubating the eggs for around 16 days. They also announce and keep a close watch on their territorial boundaries by drumming on trees during the breeding season.

Many other woodpeckers will stay with the same mate for one single breeding season but then find a new mate the following year. Like the Acorn woodpeckers, some other woodpeckers live in a more communal setting, with no specific mates that pair up.

The Worlds Smallest Woodpeckers Are the Piculets

bar-breasted piculet - a very small woodpecker

Fun fact: the smallest woodpecker globally is the South American bar-breasted piculet (Picumnus aurifrons). They are native to South America, with some subspecies of Piculets turning up in Malaysia and Thailand. Furthermore, an important fact about these woodpeckers is that they have long tongues and large heads like most the other woodpeckers.

These tiny birds only grow to be around three to four inches long and have a six to seven inches wingspan. They are primarily brown and yellow.

Two of the Largest Woodpeckers in the World Are on the Critically Endangered List

The largest woodpeckers in the world are on the critically endangered list: the Imperial woodpecker and the Ivory-billed. This is just one of the many unique facts about woodpeckers. Despite numerous anecdotal sightings over the past few decades, there has been no concrete evidence of their continued existence.

The Imperial woodpecker was last seen in the 1950s, and it may now be extinct. However, there is still hope that this iconic bird may be able to make a comeback, Which is similar to Ivory-billed, which is the second-largest woodpecker in North America, now on the critically endangered list as well.

We may see this remarkable species make a long-awaited return to our skies with renewed efforts to track and protect its habitat. Only time will tell if we will ever truly see these majestic creatures again. But for now, we can only hope that this incredible bird can become a distant memory rather than an unfortunate loss from our planet forever.

Some Woodpeckers Migrate, and Some Stay in Their Region

Woodpeckers are one of the many types of birds that migrate. Migration is when animals travel from one place to another because of environmental changes. However, some woodpeckers like the Downy will stay in their region; you can see them on our list of NYC birds.

Some migrating birds travel long distances, while others only move a short distance. Woodpeckers migrating for the winter typically fly to areas with more trees and warmer weather, as this is where they can find more food.

Some woodpecker species remain in the nest region, and others migrate south during winter. Here are a few North American woodpeckers that migrate: the Hairy Woodpecker, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, and Red-breasted Sapsucker.

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker Has a Red Head!

The Red-bellied woodpecker is one of the more common NY woodpeckers. When many people first spot one, they may be inclined to think it’s the Red-headed woodpecker due to its bright red cap.

However, they have a red belly; it’s just not as vibrant as their red head. The name “Red-headed woodpecker” was already spoken for, hence why this woodpecker got the name it did.

The red-bellied woodpecker is a little larger than a sparrow and has a black and white checkered back with a bright red head. These cute birds will feed on anything from ants to fruits to suet. So attracting them to your yard is an easy feat!

Fun Facts About Woodpeckers: A Group of Woodpeckers Is Called a Descent

There are unique and distinctive names for specific bird flocks. Are you aware that a group of woodpeckers is called a descent? It’s a murder of crows, a band of Jays, a squadron of Pelicans, or a chattering of Starlings. How’s that for one of the exciting facts about woodpeckers?

These are a few examples of what we call groups of birds. The term “descent” is derived from the Middle English word “descente,” which means “to come down.” So, when you see a group of woodpeckers descending upon a tree, you can be sure that they’re on the lookout for food. 

Woodpeckers Like Dead and Dying Trees

Woodpeckers are highly in tune with their natural environment, and they have evolved many strategies for finding food and shelter and amplifying their drumming. One of the most striking examples of this ability is their preference for dead or dying trees. These interesting facts about woodpeckers surprise many people!

Woodpeckers are drawn to stressed or dying trees, as these trees often contain a wealth of insects-particularly beetle larvae that breed in crevices and behind bark, as well as spiders, ants, and caterpillars. Woodpeckers depend heavily on these insects as a food source, making dead and dying trees incredibly valuable to them.

In addition to feeding on the rich bounty of insects found in trees, woodpeckers also use the branches and limbs of these elder trees to excavate nests for their broods. Thus, it is clear that woodpeckers like dead and dying trees for their nutrients and the abundance of resources they offer.

Whether by silencing pest species or giving woodpeckers a safe place to nest, damaged trees play an essential role in helping wildlife thrive. And ultimately, in keeping woodpeckers happy and fed, we are working to preserve our planet’s biodiversity.

Some Woodpeckers Forage on the Ground

Here are some interesting facts about woodpeckers: The green Woodpecker Europe and Norther Flickers are two of the more common ground foragers. Some woodpeckers like the Ground woodpecker, Andean flicker, and Campo flicker, not only forage on the ground but also spend a lot of time hopping around on the ground.

These woodpeckers use their long tongues to lap up ants and other insects from the ground. The Andean flicker can eat more than 500 ants per day! The flickers eat more ants than any other type of bird!

Although all of these woodpeckers can climb trees and peck on wood like other common woodpeckers, their preference for finding food is on the ground.

Final Thoughts On 17 Facts About Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are amazing creatures with some pretty cool abilities. We’ve learned a lot about these fascinating birds in this article, but there is always more to learn.

They have specially adapted bills and tongues that help them to extract insects from trees and other crevices. Not only that, but their large and specialized skulls allow them to hammer away at stubborn tree bark to get at the tasty treats hidden beneath. Add these all together, and you’ve got yourself one incredible bird!