Life as a woodpecker can’t be much fun. You pound your head against a tree all day, and all you get from that is the chance to eat bugs. But it works for the woodpeckers. These birds use their strong bills to peck at the tree, which makes insects crawl out of the wood. The birds then scoop up those bugs with their sticky tongues. To get those bugs moving, woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per second! The pecking is so hard on their heads that woodpeckers have grown smaller brains than other birds. Maybe that’s why they haven’t figured out a better way to find dinner.

You are watching: How fast does a woodpecker peck

Wee ones: Take your pointy finger and “peck” at the wall 10 times as fast as you can!

Little kids: If a woodpecker scares an ant out of the tree, how many legs do they have together? Bonus: If the woodpecker scares up 10 bugs every minute, what numbers would you say to count them up over 6 minutes?

Big kids: If a woodpecker pecks 20 times per second, how long does it take to make 100 pecks? Bonus: If a bug pops out on the 3rd peck, then the 7th, then the 12th, then the 18th…on what peck will the next bug pop out?

The sky’s the limit: If 2 woodpeckers race each other, and one can peck 18 times a second while another pecks 15 times a second, how long will it take for the speedy woodpecker to be ahead by at least 100 pecks?

Answers:Wee ones: See how fast you can count to 10!

Little kids: 8 legs. Bonus: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60.

Big kids: 5 seconds. Bonus: On the 25th peck. We started with 3, then added 4, then 5, then 6, so now we add 7.

The sky’s the limit: 34 seconds. The speedy woodpecker pulls ahead by 3 pecks each second, so after 33 seconds it will be 99 pecks ahead; it then takes just 1 more second to outpeck by 100.

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Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.