Most of us have heard the soft tapping of a woodpecker while walking in the woods. Woodpeckers use this percussion to listen for the resonance of insect tunnels. When the bird thinks it has detected a tasty meal under the bark, it begins to chisel with a side to side motion, and woodchips start to fly. Once a hole is created, the woodpecker’s specialized tongue is used to extract the prey. Their sensitive tongue tip has barbs and very sticky saliva to help them pull the prey out. So, when the tongue harpoons a marshmallow-like larvae, the barbs spread apart to extract the prey. It is pretty amazing – these adaptations help a woodpecker to find and extract from a tree food that it cannot even see.

Diet: Eats wood-boring insects and larvae; drinks sap in summer. In winter, eats live and cached insects and nuts. Occasionally laps nectar from our hummingbird feeder in summer (see video).

Back to Woodpecker Home Page