Feeding ecology and diet

The diet of picids is heavily biased toward forest insects and other arthropods, but also includes varying, and sometimes substantial, proportions of fruit, nuts, and tree sap. Many of the physical adaptations of picids are specializations for obtaining food from tree surfaces and subsurfaces. A chisel-like bill is used for excavating to retrieve wood-boring beetle larvae, ants, termites, and other invertebrates from within wood or other substrates. It is also used to reach mast and produce sap wells from which the birds obtain liquid nourishment. The exceptionally long vermiform tongue with a barbed tip is used like a rake to retrieve prey from tunnels and crevices, its efficiency enhanced by a coating of sticky saliva produced by the large salivary glands that characterize the group. The barbs at the tip of a sapsucker's tongue are short and abundant, making the tongue more "brushlike," aiding in obtaining liquid nourishment provided by sap.

European wryneck (Jynx torquilla) at its nest. (Photo by Hans Reinhard. Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

tensive habitat needs. The red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) can require 200-1,000 or more acres (80-400 ha) of pine forest per pair depending on habitat quality.

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