Physical characteristics

Wrynecks are cryptically colored above in brown, gray, and black, and lighter below. They have a slender, pointed bill, rounded wings, and a relatively long tail with rounded tail feathers that lack the stiffness found in woodpecker rec-

trices. They have short legs and four toes in a zygodactyl (two toes forward, two back) arrangement. Sexes are alike.

Piculets are like miniature woodpeckers, but tail feathers, though pointed, are not stiff and are not used for support. Piculet plumage tends to be soft, and brown and black dominate their color patterns. As with woodpeckers, the sexes are often distinguished by the presence of red on the head of the male. Also like woodpeckers, mechanical tapping on wood is sometimes used for communication.

Woodpeckers have a relatively large head, a straight, sharply pointed to chisel-tipped bill, and a long cylindrical tongue that is often barbed or brushlike at the tip for extracting insect prey from tunnels and crevices. Short legs and three or four toes in a zygodactyl arrangement, and strongly curved claws facilitate climbing. Stiff rectrices are used as a prop for climbing on vertical surfaces and probably also as a "spring" to maximize efficiency of pecking motions. The major tail feathers are mostly black, the melanin adding strength that is needed to counter wear resulting from contact with

Different tongue structure and uses: Lineated woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) (top) rakes out insects with its stiff, barbed tongue after chiseling wood away with its powerful bill; red-breasted sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) (middle) drills shallow holes and uses its bristled tongue to obtain sap; Eurasian green woodpecker (Picus viridis) (bottom) probes the ground for ants with its long, sticky tongue. (Illustration by Gillian Harris)

Different tongue structure and uses: Lineated woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) (top) rakes out insects with its stiff, barbed tongue after chiseling wood away with its powerful bill; red-breasted sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) (middle) drills shallow holes and uses its bristled tongue to obtain sap; Eurasian green woodpecker (Picus viridis) (bottom) probes the ground for ants with its long, sticky tongue. (Illustration by Gillian Harris)

tree surfaces. Many species are crested, such as the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

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