Their humorous way of doing things has made them a mainstay in cartoons. But did you know the woodpecker plays a serious role in the ecosystems of Missouri’s forests?
Woodpeckers are unusual birds that climb tree trunks and use their beaks like jackhammers.
If you’ve ever wondered how woodpeckers avoid skull-splitting headaches from all that pounding, it’s because of an extra thick skull and chisel-like beak. Both are cushioned by strong muscles that act as shock absorbers. (Woodpeckers also use their feet and tails for better stability when perched on trees.)
Woodpeckers are important members of the forest community. They consume gobs of wood-boring insects. Their abandoned tree cavities are prime real estate for bluebirds, chickadees, owls, squirrels and other wildlife unable to dig out their own homes.
Seven species of woodpeckers are found in the Midwest and several will visit bird feeders supplied with suet or sunflower seed.
Discover more about woodpeckers with the MDC’s Field Guide.