Saturday 25 October 2014

Tongues Part Two: The Woodpecker !

We couldn't be more lucky.

We caught a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker today during standard banding at Cano, the day immediately after having discussed woodpecker tongues during the writing of the Toucan Tongue post.

So today, we wish to follow this fascinating theme of tongues.

The tongue of the woodpecker is extremely long, far longer than their bill.  So what do they do with all that tongue?  Well, the answer is simple.  They wrap it around the back of their skull.

Or at least, that's what is commonly thought.

In actuality, the tongue is connected to a complex called the hyoid bone, and it is this which extends around the back of the skull and helps protect the brain of the woodpecker when it is doing what woodpeckers do best.

SPECIALIZED: A curving complex of cartilage and bone within a woodpecker’s head permits the bird to extend and store its exceptionally long tongue. Illustration by Denise Takahashi, from Bird Watching Daily

A very interesting study was conducted that examined the structure of the woodpecker's skull, and their complex of tongue, cartilage, and hyoid bone. You can read it here: “Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation,

We also noticed that the tip of the tongue is slightly feathered similarly to that of a toucan. Bit difficult to see in the picture below, but how interesting !

 ~ Author Pauline Pearse

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