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Wonderful Woodpeckers

Wonderful Woodpeckers

Sub-species of the Greater Flameback Woodpecker come in different colours! However, all of them have golden to dark-brown backs and wings, and all adult males have a red crown.
Photo: Debapratim Saha.

Mother Nature has designed woodpeckers with speed and strength in mind! These awesome birds can peck as fast as 20 times per second, and in all, clock between 8,000 and 12,000 pecks per day. What other design tricks did Mother Nature include when creating woodpeckers?

1. She included ‘safety goggles’ in the form of a thick nictating membrane to protect their eyes from flying woodchips.

2. She included thick, bristly feathers to cover their thin nostrils.

3. She gave them a small-sized brain, encircled with thick, spongy bone to protect it as they peck.

4. And finally, a super strong beak that absorbs most of the impact from their high-power pecking!

Ants can comprise more than 60 per cent of the Rufous-bellied Woodpecker’s diet! The males in this species have bright red foreheads. Do you think this one is a male or female? Photo: Ganesh Jayaraman.
The Darjeeling Woodpecker has black upper parts, and a beautiful, long ‘moustache’-like black marking, too. The male also has a red patch on its nape.
Photo: Mitash Biswas.

Except for extreme polar regions, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Madagascar, woodpeckers are found almost everywhere else in the world. Thirty-two out of the total 180 species of woodpeckers can be found in India.

The Streak-throated Woodpecker has gorgeous olive-green upper parts. The male has red crown feathers, while the female has blackish ones. Photo: Dhanu Paran.
The Heart-spotted Woodpecker can be recognised by, you guessed it, the heart-shaped spots on its pale shoulder feathers! It has a large crest, but a short tail.
Photo: Anuroop Krishnan.

Most woodpeckers have long tongues, up to 10 cm. long in some species. What’s cooler is that it wraps around their skull. Some even have barbed tongues to help them get to insects from trees and holes.

The Southern Rufous Woodpecker builds its nest inside the nest of black tree ants! Though woodpeckers eat ants and ants can eat birds’ eggs, these two species live together peacefully! Photo: Debapratim Saha.
This is the Black-rumped Flameback Woodpecker. It is named for the black patch above its tail feathers, but it also has a black throat with fine white markings. Photo: Shibu Nair.
The Greater Yellow-naped Woodpecker is found in many countries of Asia, including India. The male has a yellow throat, while the female’s is reddish-brown. Photo: Rachit Shah.

The tiniest woodpecker in the world is the Bar-breasted Piculet seen in South America, that grows just eight centimetres in height. The largest is the Great Slaty Woodpecker from Southeast Asia. They can grow nearly 60 cm. tall!

Among the largest of the woodpeckers, the White-bellied Woodpecker lives in the evergreen forests of tropical Asia. It usually nests in the hollow of a tree, and lays two eggs at a time.
Photo: Riju Ray.
This beautiful grey bird is considered to be the largest of the woodpeckers. It’s called the Great Slaty Woodpecker and can be seen in India. Despite being so big, it has quite a soft call.
Photo: Rajesh Panwar.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 9, September 2015.


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