(SNN) - I was standing in a majestic wood on a winter’s day recently, enveloped in a glorious blanket of stillness, save for the occasional moan of a hastening wind through the pines.
The first flakes of the first snow of the year were landing all about me, some resting gently on my shoulders for a short stay. Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted by the staccato clatter of a lone Woodpecker furiously working a nearby trunk.
His precise rat-a-tat-tats echoed throughout the cathedral-like silence, interrupting whatever contemplations I’d held so important seconds before. How lucky was I to witness nature manifest itself to an audience of only one. I felt deeply connected to nature as I asked myself the age-old question:
“What kind of freakin’ moron pounds its head against a tree just for a couple of grubs?”
We may never know what Darwin or God was thinking when He butchered mealtime for these innocent animals. But now, finally, someone is doing something about it.
Friends of Our Birds, Inc. (FOOB) is undertaking an ambitious, five-year, $150 million dollar program to reduce repetitive head trauma in Woodpeckers.
Dr. MacLean “Mac” Triune, project manager for FOOB, said Woodpeckers suffer more blunt force trauma to their heads and have more concussions than all other Avian species and NFL linebackers combined. The battering causes the animal’s little bird-brains to rattle around their tiny skulls like a loose marble in a paint shaker.
This spring workers will fan out in North American Woodpecker habitats, capture the birds, administer a field intelligence test, fit them with a tiny crash helmet, and release them back into the wild. The Woodpecker Intelligence Saving Helmet (WISH) Program will start with Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus),the most populous of the 200 species of the bird.
“The hardest part of the program was designing a lightweight yet protective helmet, Dr. Triune said. “Early prototypes were too heavy, and initial tests resembled WW II dive-bomb attacks. We couldn’t catch the birds before they hit the pavement, so we started betting each other how high they would bounce. I won $11.45.”
Did these experiments permanently injure the be-winged test pilots?
“Woodpeckers are pretty much simpletons to start with. It’s not like you can test their math or English skills. My best guess is, except for the ones who snapped their little necks, no harm, no fowl. Get it…no fowl?”
“I love three things, Dr. Triune continued, “Puns, bird helmets, and those new Chipotle-flavored Doritos. Dip ‘em in fresh Guacamole and it’s like your tongue threw a party for your mouth.”
“I want to study the effect of this brutal winter on the largest Woodpecker, the Imperial Woodpecker(Campephilus imperialis). Thousands have been found literally frozen solid. People have been using them as disposable ballpeen hammers. If one thaws out, they just toss it aside and grab a fresh one. Some bird psychologists fear that could do more long term damage to them than three hours of watching ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’
“Soon as I get the funding, I’ll fast track it.”
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