When woodpeckers keep hitting the hard tree trunk throughout the day, don’t they get a headache, concussions or brain injuries?
For the fact, they hit trees 10000-12000 times a day, if you talk about males.
If a human hits their head on a trunk once, they will end up with a huge bump on their head and a concussion. Then why don’t woodpeckers get it?
How do they protect themselves? Do they ever feel dizzy due to all the hitting?
Anatomical Structure Of Woodpecker Brain:
First, the woodpecker has a very small brain which is only 0.07 ounces. It helps a great deal, as it can fit in the smallest part of the head.
The brain fits snugly into the skull, which is a spongy bone-like structure.
The sponginess ensures that the blow from hitting is absorbed and doesn’t reach the brain. Also, they have very strong neck muscles, which also aid in shock absorption.
But it doesn’t mean that the entire skull of a woodpecker is mushy. Instead, its outer shell is solid bone, while the inner part is cushiony to absorb the shock before reaching the brain.
The Woodpecker’s Brain:
The brain of a woodpecker is placed in a very intelligent manner.
First, it is small. Second, it is in the shape of a half-cut fruit and is placed at the back of the head. It fits snugly into the bone and doesn’t have much space to move. It is also a reason why it is protected.
The surface area of the brain also plays an important role. Most of its surface area is hitting the skull, which means that the impact spreads around the part of the brain and not just one part. It lessens the shocking impact.
Secondly, the woodpeckers hit their target after sheer focus. They may hit 20 times a second, but each hit is planned.
They contract the neck muscles and close their eyelids before making their hit. So, they get themselves ready for the impact and then hit the trunk.
Do Woodpeckers Tongues Protect Their Brains?
Strangely, yes. Woodpeckers are also known for their large tongue, which is as long as 4 inches. They use their tongue to insert it in small holes and retrieve insects.
This large tongue is wrapped around a woodpecker’s skull. This is called hyoid.
Their tongue is not as soft and smooth as other birds’. Instead, it is a bony structure that covers the skull. It also works as extra padding against the shock.
The woodpecker’s bill is also a defense against the shock. Their lower bill is smaller than the upper bill and is made of strong bone.
Can A Woodpecker Get Concussions? What Prevents It?
Woodpeckers have not evolved recently. They have been drilling the trunks for centuries, and because they are still around, you can understand that they don’t get concussions otr head injuries from drilling. The anatomy of their skull is what protects them.
But it doesn’t mean that they can never get a concussion. They live in trees, but they can also fly like normal birds. It means that they can hit your windows just like other birds and hit their heads.
Since other birds don’t have such a protective skull, they might get a concussion or serious brain injury from hitting the window, but this is not the case with woodpeckers. If they hit a window, they can rest for a while and then fly away to their drilling mission.
Do Woodpeckers Ever Get Brain Damage Or Head Injury Due To Continuous Banging?
No, they don’t get head injuries by banging on the trunks, nor do they get any headaches. The reason is their skull which has already been discussed above.
Also, scientists argue that woodpeckers are 25 million years old. So, if pecking had been detrimental to their health, they would have stopped it a long time back.
But scientists also reported that they found tau in the woodpecker brain. Tau is a substance that is found in the human brain when there is brain damage.
The presence of tau in a woodpecker’s brain was first concluded as a result of brain injury.
Scientists are of the opinion that it might not be indicative of an injury. It may be another protective substance against drilling shock.
What Is The Impact Of A Woodpecker’s Hit?
One peck of a woodpecker is fourteen times greater than what can cause a concussion in humans.
So, if a woodpecker can hit 10000 times a day with such force and still don’t even get a headache, you can understand that they are not prone to any brain injury due to pecking.
Woodpeckers don’t get headaches, and they don’t get brain injuries from hitting trees all day.
So, you can stop worrying about the bird trying to make a nest for its family in the tree trunk in your yard.