Laced Woodpecker and durians

In June 2012 David Tan Jian Xiong was conducting a nature walk at the Bottle Tree Park in Jaln Mempurong when he noticed a female Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus) attracted to a durian fruit (Durio zibethinus) in a nearby tree. The woodpecker, normally insectivorous, was using its long tongue to repeatedly probe into an opening in a fruit (above).

“Every few seconds of probing or so, the bird would perk its head up to check that the coast was clear before proceeding to resume with using its tongue to probe the durian’s malodorous orifice,” wrote David in his blog. “After a few minutes or so, the woodpecker eventually lost interest in the durian and flew off, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to grab a quick shot of the underside of its wing (below left).”

“One thing remains unclear, however, and that is whether or not the woodpecker was feeding on insects inside the durian fruit or whether it was feasting on the supposedly buttery flesh that surrounds the durian seed (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried durian before),” continued David. “Based on the photograph (above right), taken about 30 mins later when the fruit seller cut down the durian fruit to sell, it would appear that there were tiny ants inside the durian shell, which suggests that the woodpecker may have been feeding on these, although the woodpecker might also have been feeding on the durian flesh as well since woodpeckers do sometimes also feed on fruit, as was mentioned in a BESG article some years back LINK.

David Tan Jian Xiong
July 2012

4 Responses

  1. Daisy O'Neill

    Hi David,

    Nice and interesting pictures of the Laced Woody. Not a very common bird to see in the Peninsular.

    What a co-incidence, it was only yesterday that I had a chat with a hunter assigned by orchard owner to shot gun down squirrels (Plantain mainly)that demolished his prized signature durians. ( 1 dead squirrel for RM10-15)

    The hunter was describing the difference between a squirrel and monkey’s methods of accessing those delicious or otherwise ponky fruits.

    The picture you have is a classical of a squirrel’s gnawing of the skin segments to get at the seeded fruit.

    It looks like the remnant fruit having been left exposed, the sweetness aroma has also attracted ants and other insects which the woodpecker found conveniently while prospecting insects over the spiky fruits on the tree.

    Woody had to probe his beak in to have its silky tongue do its job of lapping up the insects. In the process, the bill got smudged with the buttery flesh(which photo shows) and would inevitably and indirectly ate some of it too.

    Did you not purchase the good portion from the fruit seller?
    The squirrel would have made the best and sweetest choice for you at a discounted price.



    • David

      Hi Daisy, thanks for the compliments!

      I do recall the Laced Woodpecker having been quite difficult to find when I first started out birdwatching as well, but it seems like the bird’s status in Singapore has recently been upgraded from ‘uncommon’ to ‘common’, which is (hopefully) a good thing.

      Alas, however, I did not purchase the durian from the seller because I personally detest durians myself, which is a real shame, haha.


  2. Bird Ecology Study Group Animals that visit the durian tree, Durio zibethinus

    […] Jeremiah Loei’s 2012 video clip documented at Singapore’s Bukit Batok Nature Park shows that it is not only people and large animals that seek out the durian fruits on the ground. Well before the fruits drop, squirrels would gnaw through the spiny shell to get at the succulent seeds. This in turn gives access to other animals like the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and birds like the Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus) LINK. […]

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