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a family of birds of the order Piciformes. The body measures from 8 to 50 cm. There are three subfamilies: Picinae (true woodpeckers), Picumninae (piculets), and Jynginae (wrynecks). The Picidae are chiefly forest dwellers, adapted for life in trees. Their legs are short, with long toes and sharp claws. The strong bill and powerful neck muscles as well as the rigid tail feathers, which serve as a prop in climbing trees, enable the Picinae (the true woodpeckers) to hammer the bark and wood (in seeking food or excavating nesting holes). The Picumninae and Jynginae, which have soft tail feathers and weak bills, either do not hammer at the wood at all (the Jynginae) or are able to do so only in the softest, rotten wood (Picumninae). The Picidae have vermicular tongues, which the birds can extend very far in search of the tunnels of insects beneath the bark or in the wood itself. The insect is ensnared by either sticking to the tongue, which is covered with a sticky material, or becoming impaled on the barbed tip of the tongue. Green woodpeckers (Picas viridus) and the desert dwelling Andean flickers (Colaptes mpicola) and ground woodpeckers (Geocolaptes olivaceus) of South Africa feed primarily on the ground. The Picidae nest in tree crevices and within giant cacti; desert dwellers nest in burrows or among the rocks. The female lays three to seven white eggs; the young hatch naked. Only a few species are migratory.
There are 224 species distributed throughout the world except in Madagascar, Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, and Polynesia. In the USSR there are 15 species, of which the best known are the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)’, the green woodpecker; the gray-headed woodpecker (Picus canus)’, the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus major), found in the forest zone; the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus); and the wryneck. The principal food of the Picidae is insects which live under the bark and in the wood of trees; some eat ants from anthills. In cold weather, they also eat seeds, hammering apart the cones of spruce, pine, and other trees. In the spring, some species drink the sap of trees by drilling small holes in the bark. Depending on the circumstances, the Picidae either benefit or harm the forestry industry.
REFERENCESPoznanin, L. P.Ekologicheskaia morfologiia ptits, prisposoblennykh k drevesnomu obrazu zhizni. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.(Tr. In-ta morfologii zhivotnykh AN SSSR, vol. 3, issue 2.)
Formozov, A. N., V. I. Osmolovskaia, and K. N. Blagosklonov. Ptitsy i vrediteli lesa. Moscow, 1950.
Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Moscow, 1951.
A. I. IVANOV