Can You Describe The Physiology Of The Woodpecker?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
The legs of the woodpecker are short and strong, ideally suited for climbing in a vertical position. The foot consists of four toes, with the second and third toes pointing forward and the other two facing backward. The fourth toe can also be moved to the side and front. Each toe is equipped with a sharp curved claw. Thus each foot can function as a pair of tongs, enabling the woodpecker to get a firm grip as it climbs on tree trunks, branches, cliffs or even on the walls of buildings.

The tail also contributes its part to the bird's successful existence. It works well as a prop or a brace while the woodpecker hammers away. The twelve strong feathers making up the tail are arranged like shingles, with one lying on top of another. During the molting process, the unusually strong two central feathers are not lost until the others have grown back and are able to provide needed support for the woodpecker.

The tongue is yet another noteworthy feature of the woodpecker. It is attached to the hyoid, an apparatus of bone and elastic tissue that loops around the skull. Certain muscles pull on the hyoid loops and thereby push the tongue out of the beak for a considerable distance. In the case of the green woodpecker, the tongue may protrude up to four inches (10 centimeters) beyond the bill. Flicking in and out of the beak, the extended tongue, covered with a thick layer of sticky mucus, can reach insects and larvae hidden away in intricate passageways. In many varieties of woodpeckers, the tip of the tongue is horny and equipped with bristles. With these bristles, larvae readily are impaled. There are also woodpeckers with spoon like tongues that terminate in a broad cluster of bristles, just the right design for scooping up ants and termites.

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