Thursday, November 23, 2017

Woodpeckers of the World

Bird lovers are well aware of the charms of woodpeckers. Though we mostly get Downy, Nuttall's, Red-breasted and Acorn woodpeckers (with the occasional Pileated) here in the Bay Area, there are of course woodpeckers found throughout the world. And you might be surprised to find just how exotic they can be. Today's blog is devoted to some of the more colorful woodies we might never see in person but can at least enjoy wonderful photos of. I am not a woodpecker expert so the brief notes for each woody are culled from the internet.

Banded woodpecker. It is found in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.

Great Spotted woodpecker. Found in Eurasia and North Africa. Great spotted woodpeckers chisel into trees to find food or excavate nest holes, and also drum for contact and territorial advertisement.

Yellow-fronted woodpecker. Nope, this isn't a 'fake' photograph. These guys really do look like this. They're found in Brazil, Paraguay and NE Argentina. Their natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forests. They are a fairly common bird with a wide range and its conservation status has been classified as "least concern."

Imperial woodpecker. The world's largest woodpecker (22" in length). Owing to its similarity in appearance to the Ivory-billed woodpecker, it is sometimes called the Mexican Ivorybill. This large and conspicuous bird has long been known to the native inhabitants of Mexico.

Lewis's woodpecker. Unlike other American woodpeckers, it enjoys sitting in the open as opposed to sitting in heavy tree cover. It ranges mostly in the western to central United States but can winter as far south as the US border. Lewis's woodpecker engages in some rather un-woodpecker-like behavior in its gregarious feeding habits. Although it does forage for insects by boring into trees with its chisel-like bill, the bird also catches insects in the air during flight, a habit that only a few other woodpeckers, such as the Acorn, Redheaded and Northern Flicker, engage in.

Banded woodpecker (second photo and additional notes). The banded woodpecker feeds singly or in pairs, foraging unobtrusively among vines and dense cover as well as higher in the canopy, probing into crevices, moss and epiphytes. Its diet consists of ants, their eggs and larvae, as well as other small invertebrates

Black-headed woodpecker. An uncommon woodpecker of the northern coniferous forests, its breeding range is boreal forests across Canada, Alaska and the northern U.S. states. It prefers burned-over sites, moving from place to place, following outbreaks of wood-boring beetles in recently burned habitats. It is also known as the Arctic Three-toed woodpecker.

Blond-crested woodpecker. Nope, this gorgeous creature is not a 'bottle blonde.' It is widely distributed throughout eastern Brazil and south into Paraguay and Argentina. It has three recognized subspecies and could possibly be split into more as ornithologists learn more about this poorly studied bird. It eats fruits and berries, making this bird an important seed disperser, though its main diet is tree ants and termites.

Chestnut-colored woodpecker. The natural habitat of this handsome fellow is the subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests of Central America. Its plumage appears very dark, with many V-shaped black marks on rich chestnut above and below. Its crested head is creamy brown, its bill greenish ivory. Males sport noticeable red markings, that being a broad mustache mark, part of an ear patch and sometimes on the lores.

Chestnut-colored woodpecker. Here's a closer photo.

Cream-colored woodpecker. My favorite! Celeus flavus is unmistakably recognizable by its pale but distinct yellow plumage and beak, long erect crest, dark brown wings and black tail. The male is identified by its thick bright red malar stripe. This South American native gets to 12" long. It displays interesting vocalizations. It emits a high-pitched laugh: "wutchuk kee-hoo-hoo-hoo" or "pueer, pueer, purr, paw" with the final note in a lower pitch. During interaction with other bird species, it may repeat "kiu-kiu-kiu-kiu".

Crimson-mantled woodpecker. My second favorite, mainly for the rich reds it displays. Most Neotropical species of woodpecker have plumages that predominately are brown, olive, or black, but the Crimson-mantled Woodpecker is a spectacular exception to this general trend. The upper parts are bright red, with a prominent white patch on the sides of the head, and the lower breast and belly are yellow. This species occurs in humid montane forests of the Andes from northwestern Venezuela south to Bolivia. Fortunately for bird lovers, it is fairly common, though spotting it may be difficult  as it is relatively quiet and inconspicuous in behavior.

Greater Flame-back woodpecker. Gets the Woody Award for the coolest name! Large for a woodpecker (15"), it features an erect crest and a long neck. Coloration is highly variable between subspecies, though it always displays unmarked golden-yellow to dark brown back and wings. It has a red rump and black tail, while the underparts are white with dark markings (chevrons, stripes, or bands). The striking head is whitish with a black pattern. The straight pointed bill is longer than its head and – like the legs and four-toed zygodactl feet – lead-grey

Greater Yellownape woodpecker. This cool customer is found in the forests of the Himalayas to eastern India and Sumatra. This large, olive green woodpecker features a prominent yellow-crested nape and throat. Wings are dark olive green with grey underparts. Flight feathers are chestnut barred with black. In the breeding season they perch on dead trees, and peck on them, making a loud sound (drumming) heard throughout the forest.

Grey and Buff woodpecker. Don't look too long at this woodpecker's back or you'll get dizzy! This woodpecker is native to tropical southeastern Asia. It is usually seen singly or in pairs, but sometimes occurs in mixed species flocks foraging in the canopy. It mainly feeds by gleaning rather than by drilling into the wood, the diet consisting of insects and fruit, including mistletoe berries.The birds roost communally at night in shallow holes they excavate near each other in the dead wood.

Helmeted woodpecker. This woody is endangered due to habitat loss in its native NE Argentina and SE Brazil regions. They sport long bills (1.5") that are wide at the base and shaped like a chisel. Their head, lores and ear coverts are cinnamon-coloured, brightening to red on the crown and crest. The mantle, wings, upper back and nape are brown-black, the lower back is cream and the underparts barred black and cream. The red crest, black back, and barred underside of the helmeted woodpecker resemble those of two larger woodpeckers, Lineated woodpecker and Robust woodpecker, a form of mimicry which helps prevent attacks by other animals.

Hispaniolan woodpecker. This distinctive woody is endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The back is covered in yellow and black stripes. Males have a dark red crown and nape while in females, the red color is restricted to the nape. The tail base is brilliantly red while the tail itself is black. This woodpecker is quite vocal, emitting a range of sounds including yapping, squeaking, rolling and nasal calls. Drumming is done only occasionally..

Kaempfer's woodpecker. If you're going to have a woody named after you, this cute guy seems like a good choice. The head and remiges are mainly rufous-chestnut, the underparts and back are buff, the wing-coverts are barred in black and buff and the chest and tail are uniform black. The male has a red malar and mottling on its crest. It is native to Brazil and only seen in small numbers. It appears to be dependent on dense woodlands, often along rivers and much like its closest relative, the Rufous-headed woodpecker, it is a bamboo specialist.

Lita woodpecker. This smaller (8") woody is found in humid and wet forests as well as in lowlands and foothills of Western Colombia and NW Ecuador. Both males and females have a large yellow facial patch and a red head patch which extends to the crown on males. Their main vocalization is a hissing “shreeyr” or “peessh.” Not a lot is known about this woody, due in part to its small numbers.

Red-headed woodpecker. This strikingly tri-colored species, with a black back and tail, red head and neck and white underparts, is native to southern Canada and the northeastern part of the U.S. Interestingly, adult males and females are identical in plumage. These birds hunt insects, whether flying or on the ground, forage on trees or gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally even the eggs of other birds. About two thirds of their diet is made up of plants. They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole or the dead part of a tree.

Here's one final shot of the colorful Yellow-fronted woodpecker.
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