Woodpecker

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iWoodpeckers
Image:Harry woodpecker on house 20050108.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Subfamily: Picinae
Genera

Melanerpes
Sphyrapicus
Xiphidiopicus
Dendropicos
Dendrocopos
Picoides
Veniliornis
Campethera
Geocolaptes
Dinopium
Meiglyptes
Hemicircus
Micropternus
Picus
Mulleripicus
Dryocopus
Celeus
Piculus
Colaptes
Campephilus
Chrysocolaptes
Reinwardtipicus
Blythipicus
Gecinulus
Sapheopipo

Woodpeckers are near passerine birds of the order Piciformes. They are found worldwide and include about 180 species (including the famous ivory-billed).

Some woodpeckers and wrynecks in the order Piciformes have zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backward. These feet, though adapted for clinging to a vertical surface, can be used for grasping or perching. Several species have only three toes. The woodpecker's long tongue, in many cases as long as the woodpecker itself, can be darted forward to capture insects. The tongue is not attached to the woodpecker's head as in most birds, but instead it curls back up around its skull, which allows it to be so long.

Woodpeckers gained their English name because of the habit of some species of tapping and pecking noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. This is both a means of communication to signal possession of territory to their rivals, and a method of locating and accessing insect larvae found under the bark or in long winding tunnels in the tree.

The woodpecker first locates a tunnel by tapping on the trunk. Once a tunnel is found, the woodpecker chisels out wood till it makes an opening into the tunnel. Then it worms its tongue into the tunnel to try to locate the grub. The tongue of the woodpecker is long and ends in a barb. With its tongue the woodpecker skewers the grub and draws it out of the trunk.

Woodpeckers also use their beaks to create larger holes for their nests which are 15-45 cm (6-18 inches) below the opening. These nests are lined only with wood chips and hold 2-8 white eggs laid by the females. Because the nests are out of sight, they are not visible to predators and eggs do not need to be camouflaged. Cavities created by woodpeckers are also reused as nests by other birds, such as some ducks and owls, and mammals, such as tree squirrels.

Contents

[edit] Trivia

In February 2005 the Canadian scientist Dr Louis Lefebvre announced a method of measuring avian IQ in terms of their innovation in feeding habits. Woodpeckers were named among the most intelligent birds based on this scale.

Woodpeckers inspired Walter Lantz to create the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.

The term "Peckerwood", an inversion of "Woodpecker", is used as a pejorative term in the United States. This word was coined in the 19th century by southern blacks to describe poor whites. They considered them loud and troublesome like the bird, and often with red hair like the woodpecker's head plumes. This word is still widely used by southern blacks to refer to southern whites.

[edit] Systematics

The systematics of woodpeckers is quite convoluted. Based on an assumption of unrealistically low convergence in details of plumage and behavior, 5 subfamilies were distinguished. However, it has turned out that similar plumage patterns and modes of life are not reliable to determine higher phylogenetic relationships in woodpeckers, and thus only 3 subfamilies should be accepted.

For example, the genera Dryocopus (Eurasia and Americas) and Campephilus (Americas) of large woodpeckers were believed to form a distinct group. However, they are quite unrelated and instead close to a Southeast Asian genus, Mulleripicus and Chrysocolaptes, respectively. In addition, the genus allocation of many species, e.g. the Rufous Woodpecker, has turned out to be in error, and some taxa with unclear relationships could be placed into the phylogeny (Benz et al., 2006; Moore et al., 2006).

[edit] Subfamily Picinae: Woodpeckers

Unassigned fossil forms

  • Genus Palaeonerpes (Ogalalla Early Pliocene of Hitchcock County, USA) - possibly dendropicine
  • Genus Pliopicus (Early Pliocene of Kansas, USA) - possibly dendropicine
  • cf. Colaptes DMNH 1262 (Early Pliocene of Ainsworth, USA) - malarpicine?

Tribe Dendropicini

  • Genus Xiphidiopicus
    • Cuban Woodpecker, Xiphidiopicus percussus (Placement in Dendropicini tentative)

Tribe Malarpicini

Image:Green Woodpecker - Project Gutenberg eBook 12490.jpg
Green Woodpecker searching for insects, depicted in Scientific American Supplement, No. 492, June 6, 1885

Tribe Megapicini

Image:GreaterFlameback.jpg
Female Western Ghats Greater Flameback, Chrysocolaptes lucidus socialis
  • Genus Sapheopipo (Placement in Megapicini tentative)

[edit] References

  • Benz, Brett W.; Robbins, Mark B. & Peterson, A. Townsend (2006): Evolutionary history of woodpeckers and allies (Aves: Picidae): Placing key taxa on the phylogenetic tree. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 389–399. DOI:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.021
  • Moore, William S.; Weibel, Amy C. & Agius, Andrea (2006): Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of the woodpecker genus Veniliornis (Picidae, Picinae) and related genera implies convergent evolution of plumage patterns. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 87: 611–624. PDF fulltext

[edit] External links

da:Egentlige spætter de:Spechte es:Picidae eo:Pegedoj fa:دارکوب fr:Picidae fy:Spjochtfûgels ko:딱따구리 io:Pego it:Picidae he:נקריים ku:Darkutok lt:Geniniai nl:Spechten pl:Dzięciołowate pt:Pica-pau ro:Ciocănitoare ru:Дятловые sv:Hackspettar tr:Ağaçkakan zh:啄木鸟科

Woodpecker

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