WHY WOODPECKERS DON'T GET HEADACHES
By Sally Blanchard
A Built In Shock Absorber
There are many species of woodpeckers throughout this world and some even visit our yards. I have a pair of Downy Woodpeckers that come to feeders but I also hear them tapping on trees. No matter where you live, there is bound to be a woodpecker of one species or another who lives near you. If you listen, you can often hear one of them drumming on the side of a tree or even the side of a telephone pole. Sometimes their beak is tapping out a communication, but some of the time they are examining the tree for a tasty grub. The beak usually hits the tree “rat-a-tat-tat” with a great deal of impact. Why don’t woodpeckers get headaches from repeatedly smashing their beaks into wood? They have an amazing tongue, which starts in its right nostril and goes up over the top of its skull. There the muscle splits and each half circles around the sides of the skull. They join together again underneath the lower jaw and the muscle then goes into the woodpecker’s mouth to form the tongue. This long tongue absorbs the shock of the rapid pounding of the beak. Many woodpeckers could also be thought of as flying anteaters. One of our common residents, the Red-shafted Flicker, can often be seen on the ground using its tongue to grab ants.