This is a question I have wanted ot know the answer to for decades. Apparently someone else was thinking about this as well.
Head injury is a leading cause of morbidity and death in both industrialized and developing countries. It is estimated that brain injuries account for 15% of the burden of fatalities and disabilities, and represent the leading cause of death in young adults. Brain injury may be caused by an impact or a sudden change in the linear and/or angular velocity of the head. However, the woodpecker does not experience any head injury at the high speed of 6–7 m/s with a deceleration of 1000 g when it drums a tree trunk. It is still not known how woodpeckers protect their brain from impact injury. In order to investigate this, two synchronous high-speed video systems were used to observe the pecking process, and the force sensor was used to measure the peck force. The mechanical properties and macro/micro morphological structure in woodpecker’s head were investigated using a mechanical testing system and micro-CT scanning. Finite element (FE) models of the woodpecker’s head were established to study the dynamic intracranial responses. The result showed that macro/micro morphology of cranial bone and beak can be recognized as a major contributor to non-impact-injuries. This biomechanical analysis makes it possible to visualize events during woodpecker pecking and may inspire new approaches to prevention and treatment of human head injury.