Why Breeding Woodpeckers Snack on Bones | The Institute for Creation Research
Why Breeding Woodpeckers Snack on Bones

When you eat eggs—boiled, poached, as omelets, or otherwise—do you discard the eggshells? Likewise, if you eat trout or turkey, do you recycle your fish or fowl bones?

Some birds and mammals eat broken eggshells or snail shells to get nutritionally valuable calcium.1 Birds such as woodpeckers and sandpipers also munch on bones for this fundamental mineral, especially during breeding season.2,3 Getting calcium (from CaCO3, calcium carbonate) is essential, of course, but how do these animals know they need it, especially during the breeding season?

A related question is how do expectant human mothers, who suddenly crave seafood (or pickles, or whatever) know they need a nutritional change while their physiologically transformed wombs busily build babies?4

Actually, calcium nutrition-satisfying behavior makes sense biblically because it helps Christ’s creatures to reproduce successfully; that is, to “be fruitful and multiply” so their kinds can “fill” (populate) Earth’s habitats (Genesis 1:22). Thus, learning how creatures fulfill the Genesis mandate helps us to “cast down” haughty imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5), such as the imaginations of Darwinists who try to replace Christ with animistic nature-creating-itself mythology masquerading falsely as science (1 Timothy 6:20, KJV).5

Christ commanded birds to reproduce and “fill” environments. He also equipped them with what they need to do so, and we are just now learning many of the intricate details. Successful reproduction requires a harmony of physical traits (biochemically regulated by genetics/epigenetics) and decision-based behaviors that rely upon learning by the nonphysical “soul” of a bird. This balanced blend of physical body systems with nonphysical learned actions is one of the “wonders without number” that we can admire God for as we reverently study how His creatures live (Job 9:10).5

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.

When creatures purposefully search local habitats for needed nutrients—including vital minerals like calcium—they exhibit continuous environmental tracking (CET) as they hunt and select what they need from their territory.6 Thus, Christ equipped animals to actively select what they need from their habitats. It’s not true that habitats “select” or “shape” passive animals.7

So, what can we learn from Christ’s red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis)? These remarkable creatures recycle calcium from collected bone fragments, consuming bone flakes just before and while they lay eggs. One study reported:

The females took bone fragments from raptor pellets located on the ground.…Small bone fragments were consumed at the pellets whereas larger pieces were taken to a tree trunk (by flight) where they were pecked and mandibulated.…Pieces of bone were cached by placing them between scales of [tree trunk] bark and then hammering them with the bill until they were wedged. We confirmed that bones were cached by recovering two pieces of bone from trees and by observing birds recover cached bones, handle them and cache them elsewhere.2

Selecting and ingesting bone-pecked calcium is targeted and purposeful—not random—because mother woodpeckers seek and extract calcium from bone fragments during breeding seasons (hiding pieces for later “snacks”), and then mostly ignore those bones when they cease producing eggs.2,5,7 Amazing!

Darwinian trial-and-error luck cannot explain how these wise woodpeckers know to hunt and ingest calcium-rich bone flakes, timed to egg-producing seasons.5,7 However, the Lord Jesus Christ is the mastermind of purposeful timing for all His creation (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including female red-cockaded woodpeckers.


  1. Straus, M. Calcium in Homemade Dog Food. Whole Dog Journal. Posted on whole-dog-journal.com May 28, 2019. See also Beasom, S. L. and O. H. Pattee. 1978. Utilization of Snails by Rio Grande Turkey Hens. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42 (4): 916-919.
  2. Repasky, R. R., R. J. Blue, and P. D. Doerr. 1991. Laying Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers Cache Bone Fragments. The Condor. 93 (2): 458-461.
  3. MacLean, Jr., S. F. 1974. Lemming Bones as a Source of Calcium for Arctic Sandpipers (Calidris spp.). Ibis. 116 (4): 552-557.
  4. You Want to Eat What? An OB/GYN’s Guide to Pregnancy Cravings. Northwestern Medicine. Posted on nm.org, accessed January 19, 2023.
  5. Johnson, J. J. S. 2017. Clever Creatures: “Wise from Receiving Wisdom.” Acts & Facts. 46 (3): 21, citing Proverbs 30:24-28.
  6. For more information on continuous environmental tracking, visit ICR.org/cet.
  7. Guliuzza, R. J. 2021. A New Commitment to Deep Research. Acts & Facts. 50 (9): 4-5.

* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. 2023. Why Breeding Woodpeckers Snack on Bones. Acts & Facts. 52 (3).

The Latest
Continuous Environmental Tracking : An Engineering-Based Model...
Purpose The Institute for Creation Research is engaged in our biggest science initiative in the last two decades, and it could be our most important...

CET: Testing the Cavefish Model
Staff Writer Purpose The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is testing an engineering- based model of rapid biological adaptation called...

Original Biochemistry in Fossils
Purpose In 1997, paleontologist Dr. Mary Schweitzer accidentally stumbled upon what appeared to be blood vessels and blood cells from a T. rex...

Debunking an Iconic Uniformitarian Ice Age Theory
Purpose The Milankovitch, or astronomical, theory holds that the timing of Ice Ages is controlled by slow changes in Earth’s orbital and...

ICR and Explaining the Ice Age
by Larry Vardiman, Ph.D., and Michael J. Oard, M.S.* Purpose There is strong geological evidence for an Ice Age, so the Institute for Creation...

Planetary Magnetism
Purpose In 1971, Dr. Thomas Barnes publicized a then “trade secret” of scientists studying the earth’s magnetic field, which...

Cosmology Research
Purpose Taking the Hebrew text of Scripture at face value without inserting gaps or revising the meanings, the universe is only about 6,000 years...

The Coconino Sandstone: Water, not Wind
Purpose The Coconino Sandstone is one of the most well-known formations in Grand Canyon. The blond-colored sandstone, just three layers down from...

Global Stratigraphy Supports a Progressive Worldwide Flood
Purpose Is there geological evidence for a global flood? Is there evidence that the waters rose and peaked on Day 150 as recorded in Genesis 8?...

Human-Chimp DNA Similarity Research Refutes Evolution
Purpose An oft-repeated claim of evolutionary propaganda is that the DNA of chimpanzees and humans is 98.5% identical. This high level of DNA...