One of our committee members saw a juvenile visiting a feeder in her garden near Burras Lane this morning (first picture). This Autumn it will moult and its red forehead feathers will be replaced with black ones. As an adult it will have red under its tail, and if it’s a male, a red nape. Hopefully this youngster will avoid flying into a window, which is a major cause of death in young woodpeckers. As well as striking colouring, these woodpeckers have interesting anatomical adaptions to enable their machine-like pecking or drumming. They do this to find food and excavate nest holes but also to communicate. The Great Spotted drums faster than any other woodpecker – between 10 and 16 strikes per second – and the impact is such that it ought to cause the brain to rotate in the way that causes concussion in humans. But this is prevented by sophisticated shock-absorbing adaptations in the way the beak joins the skull. Also, the root of the tongue coils round the back of the skull, so that it has the exceptional length to reach beetle larvae deep in the wood.
By Neil Griffin Photo by Jane Smith