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Woodpecker

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WOODPECKER. A forest bird of the family Pickle>, adapted to clinging to the trunks of trees and digging holes in the wood with its beak. The toes are in pairs, two before and two behind. armed with sharp strong claws; in Pieoides and some other genera one of the two hind toes is wanting. and these forms are therefore called three-toed woodpeckers. The bill is rather long, straight, and wedge-shaped. with a hard tip, the end and sides compressed; the tail is usually lengthened and rigid, and the shafts of the feathers terminate in hard spines. which the birds press against the surface upon which they rest, and so aid in supporting their weight. The last of the caudal vertebrae is very large, with a long ridge-like spinous process; the whole structure adapting these birds to run and climb with the greatest facility on the stems and branches of trees, and to seek their food, which consist-3 chiefly of insects end their larvae, by digging into the hark and wood of trees with their bill. The tongue is fitted to this service, as the branches of the hyoid bone are greatly elongated back ward, and in front move as in a sheath; and muscles enable these birds to extend the tongue far beyond the bill. The tip of the tongue is horny and has barbed filaments, while its surface is covered with a glutinous saliva, secreted by two large glands. The keel of the breast-bone is small, and the lowers of flight are moderate.

Woodpeckers are diffused over almost all parts of the globe. but abound chiefly in warm coun tries. They are wanting in the Australian re gion and in Madagascar. The species are %pry numerous, probably 350 in all. They are mostly solitary in their habits, and live in forests. Some species feed in part on fruits and seeds, hut much of their time is spent in pursuit of insects, and they may be heard at a long dis tance tapping the wood of trees with their bills, to discover the place where en insect is lodged, or getting at it when discovered by vigorous pickaxe-like strokes of the bill. They do more good by preventing the ravages of insects than harm by their peeking. They nest in a hole cut into the trunk of a tree for a short, distance and then excavated downward six to twelve inches, according to the size of the bird, where it is somewhat enlarged. Tim the Southwest they often bore into cactus sterns. No bedding is needed, the eggs. invariably glossy white, lying on the their of the eh:mbor. These holes are never used second tines, but old inn's are freqnently utilized hy other birds.

The plumage of woodpeckers is generally of strongly eontrasted colors, black and white, or green and yellow, with red marks about the head. There are several Well-marked groups in

the family, ditI(4ring in form, plumage, habits, and geographic distribution.

The American specie, of woodpecker are nu merous and well known. The finest of the race, the great ivory-bill (q.v.). is now extinct. An other very large species, the logeock (Ceophka us pikatus). is about 17 inches long. greenish black, with stripes from the eyes along the neck and sides, and the top of the head red. It is widely distributed, but stays in forests and is nowhere numerous. Common and familiar in orchards and along roadsides is a small black and white species. the downy woodpecker (Dryobetes and it larger counterpart, the 'hairy' (Dryobetcs eillosus), is often seen. Both peck holes in the bark of apple-trees. maples, and the like, but these scars most often mark the work of the 'sapsucker' Various species belong to Canada or to the Pacific Slope.

The red-headed woodpecker (.11claneepes crythrocephulus) is common in most parts of North America west of the Alleghenies. and feeds much upon fruits and upon young heads of In dian corn, so that it is not an unmixed blessing. But its superb coloration (head crimson, back. wia2s, and tail glossy blue-black, secondaries and rump pure white) makes it a handsome ornament and atones in some degree for the mischief it does. It is ten inches long. An extraordinary species of California (1/eltnerpes fonnicii-ores), related to the redhead, is remarkable for its habit of storing acorns. each hammered into a hole in a tree-trunk dug to receive it. The East ern redhead also stores acorns irregularly in bark crevices. Lastly, the goldcu-wiuged wood pecker or flicker (q.v.) should be mentioned.

Of the European woodpeckers, the 'great black' species (Dryocopus martins), um eh like the Ameriean logeock, is rare. The 'greater spotted' and 'lesser spotted' are closely related and simi lar to the 'downy' and 'hairy' woodpeckers. The most distinctive and numerous of British species is the green woodpecker (Piens ririflis), also common on the Contimait of Europe. It is about thirteen inches in length. and is mostly of a dark-green color. picturesquely ornamented about the head with black and scarlet.

One group of foreign woodpeekers demands a few words because of the peculiar tail, which is not at all woodpecker-like. This is the sub family Pieumninir, of which about species are known, sometimes called pictilets (q.v.).

Consult general works cited under Mans; and Eekstorm, The ll'omiperkers (Boston, 19011; Beal, Pood of Woodprekers (Washington. 1895). See Plate of WOODPECKERS.