Calls and behaviour of the Banded Woodpecker

posted in: Vocalisation | 3

“During a morning walk in the Central Catchment Reserve in Singapore on 4th November 2016 I came across a bird call I was not familiar with. I stopped and saw a Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) calling about 20 feet up in a tree.

“Shortly after I spotted a Banded Woodpecker (Chrysophlegma miniaceus) on a nearby branch and realised that it was making the unfamiliar call. Rather than the high-pitched single-note call I usually associate with this species it was uttering what might be described as a rolling squeaky cough.

“The bird seemed quite agitated and was working its way horizontally along a branch occasionally standing upright and swaying its body.

“Soon after I heard a characteristic single-note call and saw another Banded Woodpecker in a close-by tree. This was followed soon after by a third bird.

“The first bird then attached itself to the trunk and held itself away from the trunk with crest erect and started to move upwards. One of the other two birds then flew into the tree with the first bird but a few metres away. The third bird called again. Shortly after all three birds dispersed – they may have been disturbed by something.

“In the attached recording above you will first hear the Banded Woodpecker followed immediately by the Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (who was perhaps mimicking it). Further on in the recording there are two birds making the alternate call and at the end of the recording you can hear the third bird making the characteristic single-note call.


“On 2nd February 2017 during an evening walk in a part of the forest about 1Km from the first observation I heard a Banded Woodpecker call twice. 200 hundred metres later I heard another call and shortly after 2 birds joined each other about 15 feet up in a tree next to the path. They held themselves away from the trunk and moved around it as if playing hide-and-seek (above, below).


“Crests were erect and often they would sway their bodies. Occasionally one would try and peck the other but it did not seem a serious attempt to injure the other bird. They continued this activity for around 5 minutes moving between trees within the same small area. Throughout they were loudly uttering the same call heard during the observation on 4th November and from time-to-time one would give the standard single-note call. You can hear this in the second longer recording attached.

“Dato Dr Amar-Singh observed similar behaviour in Ipoh in August 2014 HERE. This shows the same behaviour as I witnessed although the birds in Ipoh seem much less agitated than the two I saw. Amar-Singh concluded that this is a territorial dispute.

“On 5th February 2017 whilst looking out of my window (which backs on to the same forest) I saw a Banded Woodpecker land in a dead tree and start calling – rapid repeats of the standard single note call. Within 2 minutes another bird joined it about a metre lower down. I was unable to tell the sex of the birds.

“The first bird started drumming. Shortly after both birds flew off into the forest. A minute or so later I heard the same call as in the above two observations.

“The above observations seem to suggest that this call is given during encounters of 2 or more Banded Woodpeckers. The observed behaviour may well be a territorial dispute or perhaps it is a method for establishing the dominant male for breeding purposes”

Marcel Finlay
6th February 2017

Comments by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS:
“I am of the impression that both are males. I think this is a territorial display rather than courtship display (unless it is play among young bird? – we know so little about bird behaviour). My last time around I was more busy enticed watching and taking images and had only a short recording. They also suggest to me heighten responses and possible conflict. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. 2017) on Banded Woodpeckers calls states: “Single “keek”; mournful descending “kwee” or “peew” in series of up to 7, as territorial call; “kwi-wi-ta-wi-kwi” series during encounters.”

Marcel’s recording: “It is a call I have only heard a couple of times before and on both occasions there were 2 or 3 birds present. I believe it is the call described as ‘chewerk-chewerk-chewerk’ by Winkler, Christie and Gurney…”

3 Responses

  1. Howard Banwell

    Great post. A very thorough analysis of observed behaviour — what BESG is all about!

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