The Multiple Design of Woodpeckers

Over the years there have been articles in this journal and in many other periodicals about the incredible design of the various kinds of woodpeckers. The main focus of these articles has been the anatomy of the woodpecker. How do you make an animal that can withstand the shock of repeatedly banging its head on something hard for a long enough time to make a hole in it without sustaining brain damage? The shock mechanism and the control that woodpeckers exert on the insect population have been discussed in detail by many writers.

Recently we came across an article on woodpeckers produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Arkansas State University (reported at The study had to do with the importance of fungi to the decomposition of dead trees.

The study shows that woodpeckers create holes in dead trees that serve as growing places for fungal spores. As the birds return to these holes to feed or to excavate them further for nesting purposes, they pick up fungi on their beaks and pass the spores on to other dead trees where they are finding insects. These fungi are major decomposers in the forest, and without them snags would stay and dry out and become sources of fuel for disastrous forest fires.

Other researchers have shown that forests where woodpeckers have died out or been removed accumulate so much snag materials that reforestation is almost an impossibility. The woodpecker is critical to the health of the forest and to the recycling of materials for other plants to use. The design of the woodpecker itself is incredible, but its multiple role in nature shows how everything man sees is interconnected and has complexity that is far beyond what is obvious. Everywhere we look and everything we see speaks of the beautiful design and wisdom that is built into every nook and cranny of the cosmos. Truly we can "know there is a God through the things He has made" (Romans 1:20).

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