Why Don’t Woodpeckers Break Their Necks?
HAVE you ever heard a woodpecker drilling into a tree? Since there are about 200 species of woodpeckers worldwide, you may have noticed its persistent pecking that sounds like a machine gun. When I saw one, its beak pecking away at a tree trunk, it made me wonder, ‘Why doesn’t it break its neck or damage its brain?’ If we as humans engaged in similar violent action, we would need the attention of a chiropractor or a brain surgeon! So, what is the secret?
Take as an example the red-bellied woodpecker, found in the eastern half of the United States. The Book of North American Birds states: “With its heavy, chisel-shaped bill, it chips insects from beneath tree bark, pecks holes to get at wood-boring beetles, slashes out chunks of wood while digging a nest hole.” How does it protect itself against wood dust? “Its nostrils are conveniently covered by a small mask of fine bristly feathers.”
And what about the head being pounded? “To prevent brain damage . . . , a strong neck, a thick skull, and a cushioning space between the heavy outer membrane and the brain itself act as special protectors.”
Another woodpecker, the yellow-bellied sapsucker, drills neat rows of holes into the bark, from which it sucks the sap. Unlike the red-bellied woodpecker, which has an incredibly long, cylindrical tongue with a tip for spearing insects, the sapsucker has a shorter tongue with fine hairs to aid in lapping up the sap.
Surely such elegant variety of design bespeaks a Designer, Jehovah God. In humility we should echo the words of Job: “I have come to know that you are able to do all things, and there is no idea that is unattainable for you.” And David wrote: “Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.”—Job 42:2; Psalm 139:14.
[Picture Credit Lines on page 31]
Leonard Lee Rue, 111/ H. Armstrong Roberts
Left: H. Armstrong Roberts