Woodpecker facts for kids

Updated February 21, 2017

Woodpeckers have been around for millions of years. The woodpecker family has three subfamilies, one of which is the true woodpecker, with 183 species. Woodpeckers look for insects to eat in tree bark and tree trunks, pecking at the wood to get at them. They are not as commonly seen as blue jays or robins, and are usually heard before they are seen, loudly pecking at tree trunks looking for food or "drumming" in the springtime, looking for a mate.


Woodpeckers are not very large birds, but they vary in size depending on the type of woodpecker. The largest, the ivory-billed woodpecker, is a little less than 2 feet long and less than 0.907kg. The smallest is the downy woodpecker, which is only 7 inches long.


Woodpeckers have several unique body features. They have zygodactyl feet, with four toes -- two in front and two in back -- for grabbing onto trees and climbing. They have long, stiff tails to brace themselves in trees while pecking and climbing. Their heads are hard but flexible to handle the hard pecking and hammering into wood. Their bills are long, hard and pointed for pecking. They have special feathers over their noses to keep out wood chips and tiny pieces of wood debris. Their tongues are long and can be extended into the holes they drill to reach insects, and have barbs or are sticky to grab bugs. Many woodpeckers have black and white feathers, with males having red or yellow colouring on their heads.


Woodpeckers eat worms and burrowing insects under tree bark and in tree trunks, but also eat nuts, berries, acorns, flying insects, snails and even small lizards. One type of woodpecker, the acorn woodpecker, stores acorns in holes and cracks in trees to eat later, and other woodpeckers store nuts, berries, seeds and insects in trees and other wooden objects that have cracks, such as telephone poles and sleepers. They crack open hard nuts by wedging them in a hole or pounding at them with their beaks.

Where They Live

Woodpeckers live in and around wooded areas and forests around the world except in Australia and the polar regions. They feed in and live in dead and decaying trees, nesting in hollow parts of a tree that they find or dig into themselves. Although they live in wooded areas, they may be spotted in residential areas with dead and dying trees.

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About the Author

Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.