Brooklyn Bird Watch: April 21
As a former resident of Brooklyn now living in Florida, and a bird lover, I was pleased to see the excellent photo of the Downy Woodpecker by Heather Wolf featured in the Brooklyn Eagle’s “Bird Watch” series. The Scientific name is Picoides pubescens.
Your paper mentions that “Woodpeckers are constructed to absorb 97 percent of the shock energy of ‘pecking’ in their bodies, so the brain is protected…In addition to foraging for insects on tree trunks, they also have the power to carve out holes in the wood for shelter and nesting.”
On a Sunday morning recently my girlfriend and I were having some coffee and strolling through a local park when I heard a distinct and familiar sound in wooded areas of Florida. It was the rhythmic, muted tapping (or pecking I should say) of a Woodpecker. I had my camera with me so I followed the sound and near a picnic table on the underside of a large tree limb my girlfriend whispered, “there it is.” It was a Downy Woodpecker digging out a hole for a nest. I quietly climbed on top of the picnic table to get a closer view for a picture. This small bird, much more beautiful in real life than in the photo, would climb into the cavity it had dug in the tree limb and you could hear that powerful, rhythmic tapping and suddenly after a pause, small wood chips would come flying out of the hole, slung with a jerk of its head. Suddenly the bird would back out of the cavity and look around, apparently for predators, and then go back inside to work.
We finished our coffee at the picnic table, talking and watching the bird. It was fascinating to watch this tiny creature carve a cavity big enough to make its nest in a giant tree limb, and wonder about nature’s amazing adaptations. designs. The “shock energy” that this hard working bird must have endured during the time it took us to drink our coffee would have caused permanent damage to the brain of something not constructed for this work.
As your article noted, the shock force of the pounding beak is transferred to the body, so the Woodpecker’s head is spared. Three cheers for Mama Nature.
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