The Pileated, Red-Bellied, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers claim my woods as their home. We have hundreds of oval and round holes chiseled in towering trees, some are decaying and some are live. Usually these hard workers prefer decaying wood, but have been known to chose healthy trees to call home. I've seen both sexes in each species, subtle differences in coloring distinguish the exact sex. For instance, with the Pileated Woodpeckers, both have red crests on their heads, but the male(Top two photos), has a thin red moustache, whereas the female does not. In Ohio, it's considered an uncommon permanent resident in the area it calls home. I was very excited to see the female first, and a couple of weeks later the male showed up close to the cabin, too. I've seen them from a distance down our driveway in the past couple of years, but never this close...maybe 25 feet from the cabin. Interesting fact, the American Indians used the red crests of these gorgeous birds to decorate their pipes.
One day as I was watching the male Pileated Woodpecker, the largest of the woodpeckers, I thought to myself how that must hurt them hammering away and wondered if they end up with a major headache? After some research, I actually found an explanation. It seems that thick, dense muscles in the neck contract right before a strike to the tree. They have sponge-like bones that act as a cushion and a third eyelid. This third eyelid closes as it's hammering away, which protects the eye from wood chips and literally holds the eyeball in place.
It's a great design when you think that they hammer away and strike about 15 times per second! So, this is the answer to the burning question...but...all this really explains is why their eyeballs don't pop out. We all know woodpeckers can't talk...but if they could, I'd bet they would ask for a Tylenol!