Thursday, June 11, 2015

Post #27 - A quiz about woodpeckers!

As I have had little time for birding recently, and as birding in its summer nadir here in Los Angeles, I am going to use this post to write a bit about woodpeckers. This idea was precipitated by nothing more than this held-over photograph that I took in Costa Rica. I thought, "I know something about woodpeckers, but I certainly don't know it all". With that as the backdrop, I present the first Speckled Hatchback woodpecker quiz. I certainly learned at least something from putting this together. I hope you learn at least a little something too!

Acorn woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/400 at f/7.1, ISO 1600, Manual

Answers with explanations at the end!

1) There are about how many species of woodpeckers in the world?
A) about 50
B) about 150
C) about 190
D) about 230
E) over 300

2) Besides Antarctica, woodpeckers are absent from which continent?
A) South America
B) Australia
C) Asia 
D) Africa 
E) Europe

3) The largest woodpecker in the world is the:
A) Pileated woodpecker
B) Imperial woodpecker
C) Woody woodpcker
D) Great spotted woodpecker
E) Ivory-billed woodpecker

Northern flicker - Colaptes auratus
Canon 500mm f/4 is v1 on EOS 7D
1/125 at f/8, ISO 400, Aperture priority
This was from the first month I had this lens!

4) All of the following are types of types of woodpecker except:
A) Hammerbill
B) Wryneck
C) Piculet
D) Yellowneck
E) Flameback

5) Woodpeckers generally have how many toes on each foot?
A) Two
B) Three
C) Four
D) Five
E) They have webbed feet, who cares?

Woody woodpecker

6) Woodpeckers have evolved which of the following to help them climb trees?
A) Scaly feet for better grip
B) Suction-cup underbellies
C) Prehensile beaks to grip bark
D) They put sap on their feet
E) Stiff tail feathers to help them brace themselves

7) True or False
Woodpeckers can walk down trees head first.

8) Why don't woodpeckers get headaches from banging on trees all day?!?!?
A) They eat grubs that contain a natural painkiller
B) They have tiny brains
C) They have special feathers on their heads to dampen the impact
D) Their brains have built in shock absorbers
E) They take turns so as not to wear themselves out

Yellow-bellied sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600, Manual

1) Answer D. While I could not find an exact number anywhere online (shocking!), I manually counted from The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World downloadable version (2014). I came up with 229 - give or take! There are 23 woodpecker species in North America (22 regularly occuring + Ivory-billed - however unlikely)

2) Answer B. Woodpeckers are absent from Australasia which includes Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and assorted other South Pacific Islands. While they are found throughout Africa, they are notably absent from Madagascar.

3) Answer B, sort of. At 22-24 inches in length, Imperial woodpeckers are technically the largest woodpeckers in the world. Originally endemic to Mexico, they are generally thought to be extinct. If this were officially the case, that would bestow the largest woodpecker crown on the Ivory-billed woodpecker of North America (and Cuba). However, this species is also, and equally sadly, likely extinct. So, as far as I can discern, at 16-19 inches in length, the Pileated woodpecker is currently the world's largest.

4) Answer A. Hammerbill is a figment of my imagination.

5) Answer C. Woodpeckers generally have four toes, two pointing forward and two pointing backwards. As its name suggests, American three-toed woodpecker has only three, as does the closely related Black-backed woodpecker. Incidently, the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker breeds further north than Any other species. 

6) Answer E. Stiff, load-bearing tails help woodpeckers by providing a fulcrum that the birds can use for leverage as they climb. 

7) Answer False. Nuthatches are the only birds that can walk down the trunk headfirst!

8) Answer D. Woodpeckers have evolved several anatomical features to help protect their brains. They have abnormally thick skull bones and they have a spongy meshwork of soft bone, called Trabeculae, inside their skulls to help cushion the brain from impact. There is a very nice article that gives even more information here.

Well, that's it. I hope you learned at least something from this silly exercise!

Downy woodpecker - Picoides pubescens
Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/2000 at f/6.3, ISO 320

1 comment:

  1. Love the quiz idea, especially as it builds on your local patch knowledge.
    Having birded the lower 48 'organically', this seems a good way to make use of the experience.
    Just give us a little warning before the gulls quiz, please.