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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2009


The Jackhammer in Your Backyard

Have you ever run into a tree while playing in your backyard? A collision like that hurts, so you would never bang your face against a tree on purpose. But if a human’s head struck a tree as hard as a woodpecker’s beak strikes a tree (and strikes over and over again!), the human would die or suffer brain damage.

This kind of impact is no problem for woodpeckers. These 6- to 16-inch, brightly colored birds, daily chip away at bark on our backyard trees. Woodpeckers “drill” into trees for three reasons: (1) to find food; (2) to attract mates; and (3) to build nests. In fact, the bird can peck 40 times in less than three seconds, without harming its brain.

Just how powerful is the woodpecker’s hammering? The force with which the woodpecker strikes a tree is more than 250 times the force that an astronaut faces during rocket liftoff—but the woodpecker is not protected by a rocket and a spacesuit. In fact, if the kind of force woodpeckers take on a daily basis were applied to the head of any other bird, its brain would quickly turn to mush.

How do woodpeckers stand such pressure? The answer is that God made the woodpecker with extra tissue between its cranium and beak, to keep its head from shattering. This special design allows it to absorb the force of lightning-fast hammering. The woodpecker’s shock absorber is better than any human beings have invented.

The woodpecker also has short, strong legs, and feet with sharp claws. On most woodpeckers’ feet, two toes point forward, and two toes point backward. These X-shaped feet make climbing easy. (Most birds have three toes in front and one toe in back.) The woodpecker’s stiff tail feathers press against the tree to support its weight during drilling.

Evolutionists say that the woodpecker’s uncommon characteristics just happened by accident. But think about some questions that “hammer” the theory of evolution:

According to evolution, the first woodpecker would not have had a strong and sturdy beak, so why did it not die the first time it tried to drill into a tree?

Even though woodpeckers have strong drilling abilities, they look for trees with signs of decay, so that drilling is easier. At what point did woodpeckers evolve the capability to “shop around” for the best tree to excavate?

Why did the woodpecker feel the need to “mutate” or “evolve” new traits? Did the first woodpecker that pecked trees do so because it ran out of worms on the ground and then decided to look for worms in trees? If so, how did the woodpecker know that it needed to evolve a highly specialized beak, tongue, set of feathers, and skull, as well as claws which are different from every other claw on Earth? Why are woodpeckers not evolving new traits now?

Why didn’t the first woodpecker die before it “discovered” that it needed a special tongue to pull the ants from trees into its mouth? That woodpecker didn’t have enough time to develop a whole new kind of tongue during its own lifetime.

How did the first full-fledged woodpecker know that food, and great spots for nesting, were available inside trees? (The woodpecker’s parents didn’t know.)

How did the woodpecker learn to communicate by tapping its beak against a tree?

What animal gave birth to the first woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are here, and they show that evolution cannot be true. But creationists can easily explain them: God created the woodpecker with special abilities, body parts, and instincts that cause it to do what it does. Woodpeckers are strong evidence for a designer, as are all other
living things.



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