The New Student's Reference Work/Woodpecker

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NSRW Woodpecker.jpg

Wood′peck′er, the name for any member of the family Picidæ. This includes birds with stout bills with which they peck wood to obtain insects. Their long tongue is barbed at the end and capable of being greatly protruded. It is in every way adapted for piercing and securing insect larvæ. These birds are of great service to the farmer. Professor Beal declares that they are the “only agents which can successfully cope with the insects of forest and partly of fruit-trees, and for this reason if for no other they should be protected in every possible way.” As a family they are black and white, stiff quills and pointed tails helping them to brace against tree-trunks. Though not songsters, they have loud calls and communicate by drumming. They nest in holes in trees, sometimes in telegraph poles.

The woodpecker is hard at work —
A carpenter is he —
And you may hear him hammering
His nest high up a tree.

There are about 350 species found in all parts of the world, except the Australian region and Madagascar. Nearly half of the entire number occur in the New World, and about 25 species are found in North America. Their colors generally are bright, and the males usually have some red on the head. Among the species of the United States the flicker or golden-winged woodpecker is one of the best known. It feeds mainly on ants, and therefore is frequently seen on the ground. The other woodpeckers almost always are seen on trees. The redheaded woodpecker is abundant in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The downy and hairy woodpeckers are smaller birds, both being common. The ivory-billed woodpecker, with a length of 21 inches, is the most magnificent of North American woodpeckers. It is black, with white on the shoulders and wings and, in the males, a scarlet crest. This bird is found in the south and formerly ranged as far north as southern Illinois. The pileated woodpecker also is one of the giants of the family; it has a blackish-brown body and a scarlet head and crest. It is very wild, rare, save in deep forest far from haunt of man. The yellow-bellied woodpecker is the one real sap-sucker. Consult Eckstrom's The Woodpeckers. See Flicker and Sapsucker.