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Picidae – Woodpeckers

Nubian Woodpecker in Kenya: Photo by Nathan Mixon

Picidae, commonly known as woodpeckers, encompass a diverse family of birds found across the globe, except in Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. Renowned for their unique ability to excavate wood in search of insects and their distinctive drumming behavior, woodpeckers play crucial roles in ecosystems as insect regulators and cavity nest creators.

Overview of Picidae

Woodpeckers have adapted to diverse treed habitats worldwide, with exceptions in Madagascar and Australasia (east of Wallace’s line), while even ground-dwelling species inhabit treeless regions of the Southern Hemisphere. Most woodpeckers feature reinforced skulls at the bill base, tongues that extend to the rear of the skull, and zygodactyl toes. Notable species include piculets, resembling tiny nuthatches in tropical forests, and Old World wrynecks, known for their snake-like behavior when threatened. Despite their prolific cavity excavation, woodpeckers rarely reuse nest sites, providing vital resources for other hole-nesting birds.