Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Woodpecker Anvil with Cones

Some woodpeckers use "anvils" (aka "smithys" or "workshops") where they work upon awkward or hard food items. This photo, from Hungary, shows an anvil (simply a crevice between two tree trunks) where a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major has wedged two pine-cones. The cone seeds can be easily extracted in this way. Such anvils are regularly used and piles of cones are often found below on the ground. Woodpeckers fly with cones to anvils, wedge them, tip upwards, and work them systematically, turning them around in order to open upon the scales around the whole cone. Cone scales are prised open sideways to get at the seeds. This causes the distinct ruffled appearance. Cones are not damaged on the base of the cone, where they are wedged into anvils and where the scales are also tighter. It has been calculated that it takes a Great Spotted Woodpecker around four minutes to empty a cone of its seeds and in this time the cone can be pecked some 800 times.

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