The Toughest Birds at Your Feeders
Woodpeckers are hard-headed. It comes with the territory.
When excavating, woodpeckers can strike a tree at speeds up to 15 mph. This is enough force to create brain damage in most other birds, and certainly in our human brain. But due to a number of adaptations, woodpeckers thrive on this heavy hitting.
Woodpeckers' skulls are incredibly strong, yet lightweight, due to a reinforcing meshwork of bony support struts. This skull structure moderates the impact of the blows while transmitting the force away from the brain.
With all that pounding, why doesn’t a woodpecker’s bill wear down to a dull nub? It does wear down, however, special cells at the tip of the bill constantly replace the lost material, keeping the bill strong and sharp.
Woodpeckers' tails are as tough as their bills. Woodpeckers’ pointed tail feathers are especially strong and rigid, and their tail bones, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are very large in comparison to other birds.
These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a sturdy prop that supports its weight while clinging to trees.