There’s a reason construction workers don’t operate jackhammers with their foreheads.
Well, there are several reasons, but one is to avoid concussions. But what protects the woodpecker from similar injuries?
For starters, the woodpecker maintains a perfectly straight strike as it bores into a tree — like a machine almost — which minimizes the rotational forces on its brain. And it’s these rotational forces that sever neuronal connections and result in concussions.
Also, the woodpecker’s brain fits snugly in its skull, and the bone around the brain is dense yet somewhat forgiving. Experts have likened this bone to the foam inside crash helmets.
The muscles in the woodpecker’s head, which contract to absorb and distribute shocks, provide further protection. The same holds true for the woodpecker’s tongue, the base of which wraps around the bird’s brain.
And not all woodpeckers are using their heads on trees when they’re making noise. TheNothern Flicker, also known as the Yellow-shafted Flicker (or the Yellowhammer to fans of the University of Alabama football team) is known for drumming against buildings, trees, other solid objects—even cars!. This behavior has been observed in many other woodpecker species as well.
Flickers seem to particularly love the gutters of suburban homes— and for some reason often pick early Sunday mornings to demonstrate just how loud they can be!
Have you had an interesting encounters with a woodpecker? We always love to hear your stories!
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