You’d think that banging your head on wood all day would give you a massive headache. If we tried it, we’d certainly do ourselves some harm, but woodpeckers have their own ways of protecting their head and their brain.
Why do woodpeckers peck?
If you see a woodpecker pecking it will either be looking for food, nesting or trying to attract a mate.
- They eat insects and their larvae and eggs which can be hidden under the bark of a tree. By pecking at the wood to make a hole, they can use their long tongue to get to the food. Woodpeckers have excellent hearing and can hear insects under the wood, so they know exactly where to peck.
- Woodpeckers love older and dying trees and they peck away at the wood to create a space for a nest. During April and May, which is their nesting season, they will bore out a round hole to make a nest.
- If you hear a woodpecker making a constant drumming noise, he will be marking his territory and letting the woodpecker world know that he is looking for a mate.
If you’re unlucky you may find a woodpecker pecking the wood on your house. The main reason for this is usually food if they can hear insects moving around.
How fast do woodpeckers peck?
If you’re drilling holes with your beak, you need to peck fast and woodpeckers can certainly do that. They can peck up to 20 times a second. Over a day, that can be anything between 8,000 and 12,000 pecks. With that sort of activity, they need to be well protected from the impact of constantly banging on wood.
See a woodpecker in action.
Why don’t woodpeckers hurt their brain?
Where most of us would have a permanent headache from pecking on wood, woodpeckers have their own defense mechanisms to protect them which.
- While it may look like a woodpecker is repeatedly drilling in exactly the same place, the truth is that it won’t be. They move their beaks around so that any impact on the brain is not in the same place for too long. The change in angle of the beak may appear to be minimal to the human eye, but it makes a big difference to effect on a woodpecker’s brain.
- The beak also takes some of the impact, with the upper beak being longer than the lower beak. The beak has 2 layers: one layer of bone and one layer which is made of flexible tissue. This tissue helps to cushion the bone on impact. The tongue also wraps all the way around the skull which adds extra cushioning to the brain.
- The impact could also damage their eyes, so they have membranes which protect the eyes and stop them from coming out of their sockets.
- The skull of a woodpecker is softer and spongier than other skull and it fits tightly around the brain. In this way the skull acts as a form of shock absorber for the brain.
- The hyoid bone, which is at the base of the head goes all the way around the skull and holds the skull in place. This is a unique feature of a woodpecker.
So, onto the big question.. Do Woodpeckers get headaches? .. No!
Happy birdwatching guys!