Okefenokee Pileated Woodpecker Designs

Pileated Woodpecker Okefenokee Swamp
Early morning silhouette of a Pileated Woodpecker hammering a branch. Dryocopus pileatus is a woodpecker native to North America. Birding in Stephen C Foster campground, Trembling Earth Nature Trail; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. May 4, 2020. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

“I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall.” Obviously, that’s an expression we use to describe a pointless pursuit that accomplishes nothing but pain. However, it is an action that a woodpecker does on purpose!

I marveled as I watched a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away in the Okefenokee Swamp… chunks of bark and wood flying everywhere. I could only imagine how much my brain would be addled if I were to try it myself. With all the concerns about concussions in high school and college athletes, it is clearly something humans weren’t made to do.

But that is not true of the woodpeckers. In Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, Dennis Peterson writes, “The woodpecker is totally different from other birds. Every part of his body is especially fitted for drilling into wood.”

The woodpecker’s beak alone is designed for the job. It is harder than that of other birds, and the base of the bill is fitted with a shock-absorbing tissue not found in some other species. To go along with a beak designed for drilling, the woodpecker has a specialized tongue. Fashioned to fit into those freshly drilled holes, the woodpecker’s tongue is four times longer than the beak and wraps around the back of the bird’s skull! The tail, legs and claws are also specialized designs to help the woodpecker hold in place during his jack-hammer feeding sessions. And a keen sense of smell helps the woodpecker determine the precise drilling point to maximize the chance of excavating an insect.

All these wonderfully engineered traits are obviously to the woodpecker’s advantage and keep it from pointlessly beating his head against the wall!

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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