Woodpecker Facts for Kids


Helping kids learn about the world in which we live stimulates their imagination and boosts their confidence and self esteem. You can help kids acquire knowledge about wildlife such as different types of birds by offering them interesting facts about each bird's appearance, habitat and behaviors. Facts that focus upon the bizarre appearance and quirky habits of loud, tree-trunk-tapping woodpeckers can prove particularly fascinating.

Distinguishing Features

  • Woodpeckers have chisel-shaped beaks that taper toward the tip and provide an ideal tool for boring into wood. They also use their beaks like a crowbar to scoop out sections of tree bark. Drilling into wood causes swirls of sawdust to rise into the air, but a woodpecker has bristly, feather-covered nostrils that help prevent any choking problems. Most species of woodpeckers have three toes on each foot -- two that face forward and one facing back. "This is known as a zygodactyl foot," notes the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "and allows woodpeckers to easily climb and grasp trees and other structures."

Drumming and Drilling

  • Woodpeckers have thick skulls and strong neck muscles that enable them to use their beaks to pierce tree trunks and other flat surfaces, such as chimneys or brick walls, without causing themselves any pain or injury. Along with food-foraging, the act of drumming and drilling enables woodpeckers to communicate with each other. For example, a woodpecker might drum loudly onto a tree trunk as a way of saying to other birds that might wish to forage in the same area: "Stay away -- this is my territory!"


  • Woodpeckers have long tongues coated with sticky saliva, enabling them to collect and eat insects that they find in trees. They feed on a wide range of insects and other small creatures, including ants, beetles, spiders, snails and caterpillars. Woodpeckers can help protect trees from damage by eating pests that feed on tree sap. They also eat berries -- such as blackberries and blueberries -- as well as nuts and seeds. White poison ivy berries, which cause serious illness if eaten by humans, are among woodpeckers' favorite types of food.

Woodpecker Names

  • There are more 180 different species of woodpeckers in the world. Some types commonly found in North America have names that describe the colors, texture or patterns of their plumage. For example, the black-backed woodpeckers has a black back; the red-headed woodpecker sports a deep red head and collar; and a "ladder-backed woodpecker" has a black-and-white, horizontally striped back that resembles the rungs of a ladder.


  • Photo Credit PaulReevesPhotography/iStock/Getty Images
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