Saturday, 2 February 2013

Black Woodpecker

order : Piciformes      Genus & Species : Picidae     Family : Dryocopus martius

The black woodpecker was an accomplished percussionist long before drumsticks and drums were invented; its steady tap and drilling noises reverberate through the forest. The black woodpecker, clinging tenaciously, appears to defy gravity while it drills into trees — quite a feat for the largest European woodpecker. They found throughout Europe and Asia; south into Spain and France, north to Norway, Sweden and Finland, across central Asia, east to Japan and southwest China. 

Habitat : The nonmigratory black woodpecker commonly inhabits mixed forests, though it frequents both coniferous and deciduous. It excavates its nests mainly in large aspen or pine trees, chipping away with powerful blows of its beak. As the woodpecker works, flying debris begins to pile up in and around the hole. The busy bird stops periodically to remove billfulls of wood particles from the deepening hole, sending them tumbling to the ground directly below. As the nest is nearing completion, only the woodpecker’s tail is visible from the hole, with wood chips flying out behind it. Unfortunately, the pile of chips accumulated at the base of the trunk sends a signal to predators that a nest has been built directly above. The constant drilling by the black woodpecker for nesting and feeding purposes often leaves a dying tree with a pockmarked appearance. Most of the damage, however, is caused by the wood-boring insects that the woodpecker feeds on. The woodpecker’s work is almost invisible until the tree dies from insect infestation.Then the bark peels off, revealing thousands of insect-extraction sites. 
Food & Hunting : Tapping a tree with its long bill, the woodpecker detects the small, hidden tunnels made by destructive wood-boring insects. The black woodpecker’s acute hearing picks up the slightest sounds made by the insect larvae as they gnaw and move within the tree. With pickaxlike blows, the woodpecker excavates and then extends its tongue to locate the edible morsels. Sensitive nerve endings guide the woodpecker’s spear-tipped tongue to the tasty insects, which stick to it and are removed from their hiding place. The woodpecker also picks up insects from the surface of the tree. In the spring, it seeks a different snack — tasty sap. In addition to its importance in locating food, the rapping “tattoo” of the black woodpecker also helps define its territory. The drumming noises are used to communicate with the woodpecker’s mate, as well; quieter sounds are exchanged during nest preparation and incubation of the eggs. 
Behavior : Outside of the breeding season, the black woodpecker lives alone. It carves holes used for sleeping, called dormitories, with the male excavating new holes more frequently than the female. Both sexes steadfastly defend their separate territories.At dawn the woodpecker ventures from the dormitory and occasionally fights with rivals along territorial borders. During incubation and fledging, the woodpecker maintains a close watch and defends the nest hole. 
Breeding : As the nesting season nears, each pair decides which of their two prepared nests to use. Both the male and the female live throughout the year in holes carved specifically for solitary sleeping. The male’s hole is usually better constructed, and the female bird frequently prefers it to her own for nesting. The female lays 3–5 white eggs on a bed of loose wood chips at the bottom of the nest. Both parents take turns incubating, but the male spends the night in the nest hole, while the female sleeps in her separate sleeping hole. After 12–17 days, the hatchlings emerge with pink, naked skin and closed eyes. The parents take turns feeding the nestlings. Using their bills they prod facial knobs (projecting folds of skin) at the corners of the youngs’ mouths.The hatchlings then open their mouths to receive regurgitated food. As the chicks grow, they climb the nest’s walls and fight for the top spot; the first one at the “doorway” is the first to eat.The nestlings excrete feces into diaperlike sacs that the parents remove to keep the nest clean. 

Bill : Sharp, straight and strong, the bill grows continuously to combat its constant wear. 
Feet : Two toes forward and two behind are designed for perching on branches, but are also used to cling to tree trunks. 
Tail : Shafts of the tail feathers end in hard spines.The stiff tail helps to prop the bird when climbing or clinging. 

Weight : 9–12 oz.
Length : 17.5-19"
Wingspan : 25-27"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : March–May 

The family name Picidae comes from the Roman god Picus, who was changed into a woodpecker by the sorceress Circe.

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