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Woodpeckers and toucans

Greater spotted woodpecker, Europe and northern Asia, up to 26 cm (10 inches) longWoodpeckers, piculets, wrynecks and sapsuckers make up a group of 218 species. They are related to jacamars, puffbirds, barbets, toucans and honeyguides. Woodpeckers cling to tree trunks, hammering into the bark to punch holes in the wood. They then pick out insects, grubs and spiders from behind the bark with their long, barbed tongues. Woodpeckers also use this method to dig out nest holes. Two of their toes point forwards and two backwards. This arrangement, called zygodactyl feet, gives woodpeckers a good grip on vertical surfaces, allowing them to walk up them using their short, powerful legs. A few species, such as the European green woodpecker, feed on the ground. The males of many species have brightly coloured head markings, used for display when courting females.



Green woodpecker, Europe and western Asia, up to 30 cm (12 inches) long

Green woodpecker

At about 30 centimetres (12 inches) long, the green woodpecker is the largest species of woodpecker in Britain. It is famous for its call, known as yaffling, which sounds like loud, human laughing. The green woodpecker's beak is weak compared to that of other species. It feeds mostly on ants, for which it spends much of its time foraging on the ground, probing nests to lick up ants and their larvae with its long (10-centimetre / 4-inch), sticky tongue. 

The chisel-like tip of a woodpecker's bill's is kept sharp by the hammering action the birds use on wood.

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