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Word of the Week: Picidae

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Picidae [PAHY-suh-dee] (noun): A taxonomic family of birds comprising woodpeckers, piculets, wrynecks, and sapsuckers. Members of this family are found worldwide, except for Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions.

Even in the winter, High Park is a place where you can come to see some awesome birds that are in the picidae family like Downy woodpeckers, Hairy woodpeckers, and Red-bellied woodpeckers!

These birds are so fun to observe in the wild, spontaneously flying and dodging among trees and shrubs, as if they were evading predators (sometimes they might be). When they are foraging, woodpeckers will peck on tree trunks and major limbs in search of insects. They will also climb and perch among branches to pick berries and nuts, and can sometimes even catch flying insects in the air. However, in the winter they will mostly eat the nuts and seeds that they had stored in bark crevices during the fall.

On your next winter visit to High Park, keep an eye out for birds in the Picidae family!

FUN FACT: Woodpeckers have incredibly long tongues that are usually about twice the length of their bill. When not in use, woodpeckers will curl their long tongue around the back of their heads for storage in an elongated combination of tongue bones and soft tissue known as the hyoid apparatus. When they do this, the muscles in their tongues end up acting as a helmet or shock absorber, which insulates their skulls from any severe brain damage that they might receive from experiencing lots of rapid and repeated powerful impacts on tree trunks.