Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Concussions?

Woodpecker on pine tree

There are eight different members of the woodpecker family that can be found in the State of Virginia. These include the Downy Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker, the Red-headed Woodpecker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker (in the photo on right), the Northern Flicker, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. These are resident species (except the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker), which means they are here year-round. Woodpeckers play a vital role in our ecosystem and are always fun to observe, whether it be in a forest or in our backyards. Their behavior is very different than other bird species. With their specialized skill sets, they are able to find food sources and create shelters where no other birds would have dared. It is hard not to appreciate their fine carpentry work and not uncommon for other birds and mammals to settle in a woodpecker’s home once it has moved out.

Many woodpeckers will choose dead trees to bore out cavities, as the wood is rotten and much softer. Astonishingly, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker goes the extra mile and excavates living pine trees, but this can take up to three years. Still, dead trees the other woodpeckers choose must be strong enough to be standing, and you would expect it’s hard enough for all that head-banging to give them quite a headache…

Have you ever wondered how woodpeckers get through a day without a concussion? The answer is in the video below by PBS: It’s Okay To Be Smart. Enjoy!


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