: my kingdom for a woodpecker’s tongue :

  A woodpecker bashes its head into a tree up to 20 times per second or somewhere around 12,000 times a day, give or take.  Not softly, either, but at speeds of 13 to 15 miles an hour. Try that once and see if you enjoy the sensation.

I’m kidding, the impact would kill you; it’s been measured at 1,000 times the force of gravity. It doesn’t phase the woodpecker, however, because of its incredible, amazing tongue. The entire skull, in fact, is a flipping marvel of engineering.

For starters, their wee noggins sit atop a neck as powerful as any bodybuilder’s and the thick neck muscles efficiently disperse the force of impact throughout the body. Then, too, their brains are surrounded by plate-like, spongy bone in a snug-fitting cranium that keeps the old gray matter from sloshing around. Still another nice touch is the addition of a third inner eyelid to keep their eyes from popping out.

But a woodpecker’s tongue, which can extend four inches (three times longer than their beak), is the true wonder. When it’s not digging bugs and larvae out of deep crevices in wood and bark, it retracts into the skull and wraps around the brain to operate as a cushion. It’s essentially an airbag.

See why I’m envious?

Had I been equipped with a similar tongue, I’d be a different person today. Why, I might even be sensible, totally rational. You see, I’ve bashed my head against steering wheels, walls, stairs, roadways, sidewalks, doors, door frames, playground equipment; I’ve careened off the hoods of cars, floors, furniture, major appliances, small appliances, bathtubs, dumpsters, swingsets, dashboards. I’ve gotten beaned by nearly everything on earth — except farm animals.

You know what the astounding part is, though? Not one of my spectacular, hurtling, kamikaze-like crashes ever showed up on YouTube or America’s Funniest Home Videos. How is that possible?

copyright © 2018 the whirly girl

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14 Responses to “: my kingdom for a woodpecker’s tongue :”

  1. SilkPurseProductions

    The things I learn from you, Girl! My knowledge base on Woodpeckers has increased 1000% . I started at 0, no knowledge whatsoever. I cold have used that tongue a few times myself and like you there is no proof on YouTube. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Straddle the Turtle

    Fascinating! Thank you. It’s so much easier to learn new minutiae when it’s couched in humorous examples of your habit of being clumsy 😬 And its minutiae I’m actually interested in since I feed the birds outside my windows. New respect next time I spot a woodpecker 🤛🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • the whirly girl

      Wait, there’s more: some woodpeckers have one backward-facing toe in addition to the two forward-facing. They have a grip like a vise when they’re drumming away. I could use that, too 🙃

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. aintwegotitmade

    Nature is just amazing!! thanks for the amazing low-down on wood-peckers. I wish careening was fun…it sounds like it should be fun…maybe it’s fun until the moment you hit something…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • the whirly girl

      You know, it should be fun, but it isn’t. The instant you begin the careen is the instant the regret kicks in. Then the dread. Then the searing pain 🤕 That’s the part I hate, the searing pain.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Dave Kingsbury

    Animated account of a natural wonder! Amazing to think of the evolutionary process that selected this sophisticated survival mechanism – the whole environment giving rise to individual developments.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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