Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 - a good woodpecker year

So the end of the year 2015 is upon us. It was a great year for me in my quest to observe, hear and learn more about woodpeckers and the places where they live. I saw several species I had not encounted before, and got many photos and sound recordings, for example in the Philippines and Vietnam. Here is one of my favourites Luzon Flameback Chrysocolaptes haematribon, taken near Subic Bay, Philippines, in January. Many thanks to all of you who contributed images to this blog. And here is to 2016 and more even woodpeckers (Gerard Gorman).

Monday, 30 November 2015

Vietnam - Woodpeckers

I have just returned from Vietnam where, along with two friends, I explored three forested national parks: Cuc Phuong, Phong Nha-Ke Bang and Cat Tien. We observed a range of birds and other wildlife, including some rare primates, but our main objective was to find and study woodpeckers. There are 18 species of picid in Vietnam, and we observed 10 of them: White-browed Piculet Sasia ochracea, Grey-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus, White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis, Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus, Red-collared Woodpecker Picus rabieri, Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus, Common Flameback Dinopium javanense, Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia, Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis, Black-and-buff Woodpecker Meiglyptes jugularis. However, most of our time was concentrated on searching for and observing 2 species: the rare 'Near-Threatened' Red-headed, and the bamboo-dwelling Pale-headed. Both of these woodpeckers are rather shy, and often difficult to observe, the former inhabiting thick rainforest and the latter dense stands of mature bamboo, I was particularly pleased to obtain sound recordings of the call of Red-headed and drumming of Pale-headed. Adjacent photo: male Lesser Yellownape race annamensis, Cat Tien NP, November 2015 (Gerard Gorman).

Friday, 13 November 2015

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

This is as close as I have ever been to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis. Female (left) and male (right) specimens in the Vienna Museum of National History, Austria. The debate over whether this species still exists or not goes on, although it does not rage as much as it did in the years following reports of sightings in the USA in 2005 and 2005. The IUCN class this bird as Critically Endangered. It is, sadly, probably but not officially extinct.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Urban Picids: Syrian Woodpecker

The Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus is often seen in wooded urban habitats: in gardens, parks, orchards and the like. This male was in roadside trees and on utility poles in a village in Hungary. Photo by Gerard Gorman.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Picid in Focus: Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker

Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker (Celeus castaneus) male. This stuning image was taken by Vaughan Ashby (Birdfinders) in Honduras in March 2015.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Picid in Focus: Lesser Yellownape

Here is another great photo from Sri Lanka, taken in July 2014, by Gehan Rajeev. A male Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus. The various races of this woodpecker vary greatly in plumage colouration, particularly in head patterns. This island race wellsi is relatively small. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Social Woodpeckers: Magellanic Woodpecker

Some woodpeckers are, to varying degrees, social in nature. One such species is the Magellanic Woodpecker Campephilus magellanicus of South America which is often seen in foraging family clans of 3-5 individuals. Young Magellanics may remain in contact with their parents for 3-4 years after fledging. These three, one male above and one below a female, were photographed in Argentina in December 2010 (Gerard Gorman).

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Picid in Focus: Yucatan Woodpecker

Yucatan Woodpecker Melanerpes pygmaeus. This is a male, females have less yellow in the face and red only only on the nape. Photographed in Belize by Vaughan Ashby during a Birdfinders tour in March 2015.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Name confusion - an example

Here is a pair of Eastern Grey Woodpeckers (Dendropicus spodocephalus) which I photographed at the SW edge of the Ngoronoro Crater, Northern Tanzania in February 2014. This taxon is also sometimes called Grey-headed Woodpecker, which can create confusion as that English name is also used for the Eurasian species Picus canus (this is also sometimes called Grey-faced Woodpecker). Further more, Dendropicus spodocephalus can also be found under a third name, Mountain Grey Woodpecker. In addition, Eastern Grey is sometimes placed in another genus, Mesopicos, rather than Dendropicus, and it is also sometimes treated as conspecific (lumped) with African Grey Woodpecker Dendropicus goertae or Mesopicos goertae if you prefer (which is also known as Grey Woodpecker). Confused yet ? Clearly, the current situation, where different taxonomic lists and field-guides use different English names (sometimes even scientific names) is far from ideal. Unfortunately, standardisation in the use of names for woodpeckers (and many other groups if birds) does not seem to be on the horizon.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Picid in Focus: Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker

Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker Celeus castaneus. This is a female (males have red on the cheek and malar stripe). Photographed in Belize by Vaughan Ashby during a Birdfinders tour in March 2015.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Picid in Focus: Pale-billed Woodpecker

A wonderful Pale-billed Woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis. The biggest picid in Central America. This is a female, note the black throat and central crown. Photographed in Belize by Vaughan Ashby during a Birdfinders tour in March 2015.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

An island endemic: Crimson-backed Flameback

Here is another great image from Sri Lanka by Gehan Rajeev. A female Crimson-backed Flameback Chrysocolaptes stricklandi (males have a crimson crown). This species is endemic to the island of Sri Lanka and was previously considered a race of Greater Flameback.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Picid in Focus: White-bellied Woodpecker

Three White-bellied Woodpeckers (Dryocopus javensis), Subic Bay Forest, Luzon, Philippines, January 2015 (Gerard Gorman).

Monday, 16 March 2015

Picid in Focus: White-naped Woodpecker

Here is a great image of a White-naped Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes festivus. This is a male, females lack red, having a yellow crown. Taken in Sri Lanka in December 2014 by Gehan Rajeev.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sexual Dimorphism in nestling woodpeckers

Most woodpecker species are sexually dimorphic, meaning simply that the sexes look different. This dimorphism varies: in some species it is obvious, in other more subtle (and in a few species it hardly exists). In some cases, plumage dimorphism becomes evident as soon as chicks begin to acquire feathers and young woodpeckers can be sexed visually before they leave their cavity. Here is an example, a female Williamson's Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus) nestling, just before fledging (Oregon, USA, July 2014). Adults of this species are very different visually, in fact they are one of the most sexually dimorphic woodpeckers (so much so that they were once thought to be different species) and this is the case with nestlings, too. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Picid in Focus: Pale-billed Woodpecker

Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). Adult male. February 2012, Tortuguero NP, Costa Rica. This was a roost hole, not a nest-hole, in a busy tourist resort.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Picid in Focus: Scarlet-backed Woodpecker

Scarlet-backed Woodpecker (Veniliornis callonotus, race major). Adult male, November 2012, Bosque de Pomac, Peru.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Picid in Focus: another Northern Sooty Woodpecker

Another shot of Northern Sooty Woodpecker Mulleripicus funebris,race/subspecies funebris. Subic Forest, Luzon, Philippines, January 2015. (Gerard Gorman).

Monday, 9 February 2015

Picid in Focus: Northern Sooty Woodpecker

Northern Sooty Woodpecker Mulleripicus funebris, race/subspecies funebris. Females lack the red face. Subic Forest, Luzon, Philippines, January 2015. (Gerard Gorman).   

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Picid in Focus: Philippine Woodpecker

Philippine Woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus. This is the race validirostris. Also commonly known as Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and locally as just Pygmy Woodpecker. It is endemic to the Philippines, but is not found on all of the islands. Taken in La Mesa Park, Manila, January 2015 (Gerard Gorman).

Friday, 9 January 2015

Terrestrial Woodpeckers

There are several woodpecker species around the world that tend to forage on the ground and many others that, though essentially arboreal, will also occasionally drop to the ground to feed. Two species, however, are highly terrestrial, hardly ever using trees and seldom actually pecking wood! They are, the Andean Flicker Colaptes rupicola of the high Andes in South America & the Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus of Southern Africa. Here is a close-up of the former: a male of the puna race, in C Peru, November 2012 (Gerard Gorman).