Woodpecker bird species specially adapted tongue, Bird foraging behavior

Amazing woodpecker tongues – Birds

June 2, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

You’ll often hear woodpeckers rattling their bills against trees. They’re going after their favorite food: bugs hiding under the tree bark. The woodpeckers have some very specialized equipment for extracting them.

First they have a sturdy bill, for pounding holes in the wood, or for chipping pieces of bark out of the way. It needs to be sturdy – the bird’s bill may be traveling at 25 miles per hour when it hits the tree! Woodpeckers have special shock absorbers in their skull to avoid being knocked unconscious by such a force.

Once they’ve pecked through the tough tree bark, they’re ready to lap up the insects. But how? That’s when the woodpecker brings out its second tool: an unbelievably long tongue – in some species, it can extend 5 inches beyond the bird’s beak. This tongue is covered with sticky saliva and barbed hairs that trap the insects.

How does the bird fit such an unbelievably long tongue in its mouth? Well, it doesn’t – part of the tongue is stored in a special corridor inside the skull – the corridor wraps all the way around the bird’s head.

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