A woodpecker’s beak is tough…and innovative! The spongy bones and nail hard beaks of woodpeckers are inspiring a new generation of shock absorbers, potentially shielding airplane black boxes, football players and other valuable materials from the forces of impact. Woodpeckers hammer their beaks into trees at the astonishing rate of 18 to 22 times per second, subjecting their brains to deceleration forces of 1200g’s with each strike. This is more than 100 times the g-force required to give a football player a concussion, according to research conducted by the NFL. Want to learn to be tough and beautiful? Talk to a woodpecker.
Well, it seems all the time. Paleontologists are now saying that modern birds are actually living dinosaurs. Then came news from China that some dinosaurs seemed to be marvelous four-winged creatures, perhaps on standby at some runway for takeoff in flight as early birds. Other recently excavated primitive bird species had also adopted the four-wing body plan before they ditched the hind-limb feathers and evolved into the, presumably, more efficient feathered forelimb wings. Here are a cardinal, blue jay, grackle, red-bellied woodpecker and catbird discussing their costumes for the next Jurasic Park movie. Maybe they don’t need costumes at all.
A few years back, a BBC television series called Daylight Robbery featured squirrels performing hair-raising stunts worthy of the eight actors who played James Bond. The producers claimed their star was just an average squirrel off the street. Could this program have been the beginning of the reality show craze? We here at the edge of the wood know that no squirrels would sink that low. We often wonder why humans do. Here is our little star sharing a quiet moment with a red-bellied woodpecker amongst the green swan plant blooms and the pebbly osage orange and leafy eucalyptus.
National Squirrel Appreciation Day, celebrated January 21, was founded in 2001 by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy McKeown. Richard Thorington of the Smithsonian Museum gives us some ideas how to celebrate here, but we suggest putting some extra special food treats out. It’s the middle of the winter and all our animal friends have a long wait until spring. Why bother? Well, not everyone is as lucky as you. Seth Kugel writes in the New York Times, “Amazed visitors from many countries say they have never seen squirrels before…hordes of tourists stop en masse to snap pictures. One such newcomer was a squirrel novice when she emigrated from Beijing 14 years ago. ”I only knew these animals in the cartoons,” she said. Minutes later, a group of young tourists from the Philippines stopped. ”It’s considered a rodent here, right? We’re fascinated by it.” Here we see a red-bellied woodpecker and a blue jay getting ready for the big day.