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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Barn Swallow "Mama"  
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
 » Just Another Golden Eagle  
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
 » Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ... 
 » Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
» Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
 » Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
 » A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets and Canopy Feeding 
  »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
 » Hospital Hallucination 
 » What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 


By Sally Blanchard

There are a few species of woodpeckers that live in or pass through the Loveland, Colorado area where I live. 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 most 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. 

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