Sometimes a bird needs more than a specialized beak to enable it to get the food it needs.
Woodpeckers have several adaptations that work together so they can feed on their favorite foods.
Like the hummingbird, the woodpecker has another adaptation that aids feeding: a lengthened hyoid apparatus. The hyoid apparatus is a series of bones, muscle, and cartilage connected to the tongue that allows the tongue to extend to great lengths. This hyoid apparaturs wraps around the base and up over the top of the skull.
In some woodpecker species, the hyoid apparatus terminates near the right nostril. In others, the hyoid apparatus terminates on the top of the beak.
In some, these amazing structures wrap around the eye socket.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, which are also woodpeckers, are an exception because they don't have a long tongue and they don't eat insects.
Although they are called "sapsuckers," they don't actually suck up sap. Instead they use their short, bristly tongues to lap up sap from the short holes they drill in trees.
DID YOU KNOW? The Red-bellied Woodpecker tongue extends three times the length of its bill.
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