Friday, 25 February 2011

Picid in Focus: Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius

This range of this species falls almost totally within the Western Palearctic. There are 4 races but they do not differ greatly in plumage. The sexes are not very dimorphic, both having red crowns, and are often being hard to separate in the field. It occurs in deciduous woodlands, particularly those with mature oaks. Photo taken in Austria by Thomas Hochebner.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Sounds: Magellanic Woodpecker

The double rap is an instrumental signal comparable to the drumming done by many other woodpecker. At the end of the recording there is a strong, deliberate flapping of wings as the bird flew away. Click this link to play.

Magellanic Woodpecker Campephilus magellanicus: double rap

Recorded in December 2010 in Argentina, by Gerard Gorman.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Picid in Focus: Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major

This species ranges across Eurasia from Ireland and Britain eastwards to Japan. It also occurs on the Canary Islands and parts of North Africa. There are 14 races, some very distinct. It is by far the most common, widespread and familiar woodpecker in Europe. An adaptable and generalist species, it occurs in a wide range of wooded habitats, natural and man-made, from mature forests to parks and gardens. Photo of a male (note the red nape patch), Austria, by Thomas Hochebner.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Picid in Focus: Fine-spotted Woodpecker Campethera punctuligera

This small picid occurs in western and central Africa, in SW Mauretania, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Ivort Coast, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Zaire. It inhabits lightly wooded savanna and open grasslands with acacia where it mainly feeds on ants and termites. There are two races, nominate punctuligera  across most of the range and balia in south Sudan and north-eastern Zaire. This female was photographed in the Gambia in 2010 by Vaughan Ashby.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Nomenclature: the problem of vernacular names

A universal agreement amongst ornithologists on which taxonomy to use in the classification of birds still eludes us. Furthermore, there is still disagreement on which English vernacular names to use and this is valid for the woodpeckers, too. This problem is partly due to the global diversity of the English language and a standardization of names does not seem to be on the horizon. Indeed, total conformity in English nomenclature is probably unrealistic. The solution for most when discussing the picids (to establish exactly which species is being discussed) is to refer to the scientific name of the species (often called the Latin name, though strictly speaking that is incorrect) as there is more (but not total) conformity in the use of scientific names. There are may examples of woodpeckers having more than one English name as even a brief perusal of the literature will reveal. For example, in India the Flamebacks are also often called "Goldenbacks". A particularly confusing example is "Grey-headed" versus "Grey-faced" Woodpecker. Most European literature, and the vast majority of ornithologists and birders, refer to the Eurasian Picus canus as Grey-headed Woodpecker, however the African species Dendropicos spodocephalus is also widely called Grey-headed Woodpecker (the IOC have named it Eastern Grey Woodpecker). Photo of Grey-faced Woodpecker, Austria, Thomas Hochebner.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Genus: Chrysocolaptes

The Chrysocolaptes genus contains just 2 species. The first, Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus has 13 races across SE Asia. White-naped Woodpecker C. festivus has 2 races, one in India and one in Sri Lanka.  Photo: Male Greater Flameback just taken off from a tree in the Corbett NP, Northern India, Gerard Gorman.