Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches
The birds have some clever adaptations to keep their noggins safe.
During election season, everyone can relate to woodpeckers: We all feel like banging our heads against the wall.
The birds handle it better, though, so Weird Animal Question of the Week was pleased to look into Derek Halas’s question: “Why don’t woodpeckers get headaches?”
It's a tough one to answer, says Walter Koenig, an ornithologist at Cornell University, via email. But, he says, if pecking caused pain and injury, “presumably they wouldn’t be around for very long"—a hurt bird would likely succumb to predators.
There are more than 300 species of woodpeckers worldwide, and they peck wood for a variety of reasons: to excavate nest cavities, dig for insects or sap, or create holes to store food.
When selecting wood, the