Rufous woodpecker

   ›      ›   Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus

The rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) belongs to the family of sapsuckers and woodpeckers, the Picidae.

The rufous woodpecker species is distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, southeast Asia and China. These woodpecker populations are under decline due to habitat destruction. These woodpeckers are polytypic species.
Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Rufous Woodpecker Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) is a medium-sized woodpecker, measuring 25 to 30 cm in length and weighing 55 to 115 grams.

The rufous woodpecker has overall reddish brown plumage. There is a short crest. There are dark bars and vermiculations on the rufous body. The males have reddish patch near the eye.

The bill is short, pointed, slightly curved and dark gray in color. The irises are dark brown. There is a gray eye-ring. The legs and feet are gray. The call of the rufous woodpecker is a nasal "kweep..kweep..kweep" sound.
Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus
1.Birds of India - Photo of Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus by Jason Thompson

Birds of India - Photo of Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus
2.Indian birds - Photo of Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus by Prajwalkm

Indian birds - Photo of Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus
3.Birds of India - Photo of Rufous woodpecker - Micropternus brachyurus by Rahul Alvares

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) species are distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and China.

In India, these rufous woodpecker species are distributed in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram.

The nominate rufous woodpecker subspecies M. b. brachyurus is distributed in Java (Indonesia). The subspecies M. b. badiosus is distributed in Borneo and north Natuna Islands (Indonesia).

The rufous woodpecker subspecies M. b. badius is distributed in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Malay Peninsula. The subspecies M. b. annamensis is distributed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The subspecies M. b. humei occurs in North India and west Nepal.

The woodpecker subspecies M. b. williamsoni is distributed in Thailand. The subspecies M. b. holroydi is distributed in Hainan (China). The subspecies M. b. fokiensis is distributed in southeast China and northern Vietnam.

The rufous woodpecker subspecies M. b. phaioceps is distributed in Nepal, east and northeast India, southern China, Myanmar and northern Thailand. The subspecies M. b. jerdonii occurs in west, southwest India and Sri lanka.

Ecosystem and habitat

These rufous woodpecker species have moderate forest dependence. They normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 1740 meters. The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these woodpecker species include plantations and rural gardens.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these rufous woodpecker species include tropical and subtropical moist montane forests, evergreen forests, deciduous forests, moist lowland forests, moist shrublands, dry forests and mangrove forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) species consists mainly of ants. Arboreal ants, ant larvae, termites and other small insects are their primary food.

The Oecophylla species (weaver ants or green ants), Pheidole species and Crematogaster species (Saint Valentine ants and acrobat ants) are the favored prey of these woodpeckers.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these rufous woodpecker species is from February to June in south India and Sri Lanka. The laying season is from April to June in Nepal, north India and Myanmar. The breeding season is from January to April in Malaysia and Thailand.

These rufous woodpecker species are monogamous and aggressive. The nesting sites include fork and branches of trees. They nest within the arboreal nest of acrobat ants.

The clutch contains two or four round white eggs. Both the parents incubate the eggs and raise their young. The chicks hatch out after 11–14 days of incubation. The young woodpeckers fledge after 20-25 days.

Migration and movement patterns

These woodpecker species are non-migratory resident birds. The populations in higher altitudes descent to lower levels in winter.

Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. Within their range they may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Rufous woodpecker - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Micropternus brachyurus
  • Species author: (Vieillot, 1818)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Picus brachyurus Vieillot, 1818
  • Family: Picidae › Piciformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Rufous woodpecker, Chinese: 栗啄木鸟, French: Pic brun, German: Rötelspecht, Spanish: Carpintero rufo, Russian: Рыжий дятел, Japanese: クリチャゲラ, Indonesian: Pelatuk Kijang
  • Other names: Brown Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker
  • Distribution: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, southeast Asia, China
  • Diet and feeding habits: ants, larvae, termites, small insects
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be decreasing.

In most of its range, this woodpecker species is reported to be locally common to uncommon (del Hoyo et al. 2002). The generation length is 5 years. Its distribution size is about 16,800,000

Habitat alteration, fragmentation and destruction, deforestation and human intrusions and disturbance are the main threats that are endangering the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the woodpecker species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Micropternus brachyurus
Species:M. brachyurus
Binomial name:Micropternus brachyurus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The ten recognized subspecies of the rufous woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) are:
M. b. brachyurus (Vieillot, 1818),
M. b. humei Kloss, 1918,
M. b. badiosus (Bonaparte, 1850),
M. b. jerdonii (Malherbe, 1849),
M. b. badius (Raffles, 1822),
M. b. phaioceps (Blyth, 1845),
M. b. annamensis Delacour & Jabouille, 1924,
M. b. fokiensis (Swinhoe, 1863),
M. b. williamsoni Kloss, 1918 and
M. b. holroydi Swinhoe, 1870.
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1.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Jason Thompson | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 5/23/18
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Prajwalkm | License: CC BY-SA 3.0 as on 5/23/18
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Rahul Alvares | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 5/23/18
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