Woodpecker: thanks to his brain he “hits” without getting hurt


A recent study from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, found that the spikes ‘ skull does not cushion shocks. The brains of small birds could therefore be at risk of head injuries from their constant hammering on the trunks. Woodpeckers are typical for their hammering on trees. They poke holes in the bark to look for insect larvae or find the most suitable place to nest.

Their hammering also serves a purpose to signal their territory to rival species. Their drumming has a personal rhythm. The great spotted woodpecker has the fastest percussion of all other woodpeckers with 10-16 strokes per second. It has a sound similar to a “tratatatatata”, while that of the lesser spotted woodpecker is lighter and resonates like a “tiritiritiriti”.

The researchers analyzed videos of three different species of high-speed spikes. They quantified the deceleration of the skull after impact with the surface. Then they created virtual models with woodpecker pecking simulations. This is to understand how it was possible to soften all that force after each peck. Here the answer reveals that the skull of the spikes does not absorb the shocks of the impacts.

The researchers then give an explanation of how these animals can survive their constant tapping on wood. The structure of their skull does not protect them. However, their brains are so small compared to other animals that they manage to avoid flapping with each peck. Obviously if he hammered a concrete or metal surface, then the risk of a concussion would be high. The study results also explain why woodpeckers have not very large heads and neck muscles. The larger skull and stronger peck could lead to severe brain trauma. We can therefore be calm and not live in anxiety about the spikes, their life is not in danger.

  • The woodpecker “beats” without harming itself thanks to its small brain (


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