Nest of the Rufous Woodpecker

on 14th September 2013

“It is well known that woodpeckers are peckers of wood; chiselling into wood for food. Most woodpeckers possess strong beaks that are also used to excavate holes in trees for nests. But for the Rufous Woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus), I just found out that its nest is excavated within the nest of acrobat ants (Crematogaster sp.). That is amazing because it also preys on the ants. But do you believe that both woodpecker and ants can co-exist during the bird’s nesting period?

“This male Rufous Woodpecker peeping out from its nest was photographed in early June 2013 (above). The nest looked like an elongated ball of mud that was stuck to a tree at a height of about 3 metres. Since not an expert, I cannot verify whether this is the nest of acrobat ants. Here’s an IMAGE for comparison. Please note that there is no sign of any ants in my pictures captured.

“Browsing for more information, I found this ARTICLE, which give a first-hand account of Rufous Woodpeckers attacking a Crematogaster nest for food.

“Another interesting article is found HERE. Check out the last paragraph, which states that ‘ants and Rufous Woodpeckers are friends and they help each other’.

“Unfortunately, there was no further observation as the nest disappeared without a trace after 2 weeks.

“Photo showing a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers, which is sexually dimorphic, captured at a different site, is attached for comparison (above). Noted that in addition to the red cheek patch below its eye, the male Rufous Woodpecker has a darker plumage when compared with the female. Not easy to see the difference in plumage if they are spotted separately.”

Kwong Wai Chong
30th August 2013

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

7 Responses

  1. What could have happened to the nest? I hope it wasn’t mistaken for a beehive and removed by the authorities. Or perhaps there was strong wind/rain which dislodged it?

  2. There was a ants nest about as round as a basket ball in my mulbery tree, been there for about a year, i noticed the tree didnt like it,so i started to prod at it,breaking it too bits, to discover there was baby birds inside it,no entry or exit to be seen. this has amazed me….

  3. Kwong Wai Chong,
    hi, i recently captured few images of rufous woodpecker in Dandeli, in Karnataka India. i checked it in the book for birds of Indian subcontinent…and found the difference about male and female…. but in the pics it didn’t have clear indication of the red patch on the coverts…and in searching for more information i landed up here…..! i was hinted for the subspecies ” celeus brachyurus…” know more for it..!

    if possible can u please visit the link below and share your feedback.?

    mayank ghedia,india

    1. Hi Mayank Ghedia
      Thanks for your comment.
      Sorry, but I am no expert and will not be able to provide any further info with regard to your woodpecker.

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