Like the true woodpeckers, piculets have large heads, long tongues which they use to extract their insect prey and zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backwards. However, but they lack the stiff tail feathers that the true woodpeckers use when climbing trees, so they are more likely than their relatives to perch on a branch rather than an upright trunk.
Their bills are shorter and less dagger-like than the true woodpeckers, so they look for insects and grubs mainly in decaying wood. Similarly, they re-use woodpecker holes for nesting, rather than making their own holes. The eggs are white, as with many hole nesters.
Typically these birds have grey or dull green upperparts and dark-streaked white underparts.
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