“We saw the White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos subcirris) a few times but less often than the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major japonicas) LINK. They are very similar as first glance. White-backed Woodpeckers in Hokkaido have more white in the plumage and those on the southern islands look darker.
“Images at the top, above and below are of an adult female that we first came across banging away at a wooden board-walk for insects (below) – large strips of thick wood had been used to create a walk way in a damp forest; feeding on ground well recognised (Brazil 2018). The above image shows the ‘white-back’ well but Gorman 2014 says “not as ‘white-backed’ as the name suggest, amount of white varying’.
“I am confident the bird we saw below, is an immature bird. I initially thought it was an immature male, as the red in the crown is not well developed. But HBW 2019 states on juveniles ‘both sexes with red or orange-red on crown, reduced on female, usually mixed with black’. I consulted my copy of Gorman’s ‘Woodpeckers of the World’ and he states “juvenile male has red crown, female usually some red on for crown”. Taking Gorman’s opinion, I’d say the bird in post 4 is an immature/juvenile male.
“As I mentioned earlier, the White-backed Woodpecker and the Great Spotted Woodpecker are very similar as first glance. Adult males a can be distinguished by the extent of red in the crown – Great Spotted Woodpeckers having red only in the hind crown. But females and juveniles are more difficult. One good/quick feature in the field to look for is the black face bar – in the White-backed Woodpecker it does not reach the nape (or crown), in the Great Spotted Woodpecker it extends all the way up to the nape/back of the crown. The composite I put together to illustrate this is of a male Great Spotted Woodpeckers (above, sorry no female images) and a female White-backed Woodpecker below (below)”.
1. Gerard Gorman. Woodpeckers of the World – The Complete Guide. Bloomsbury Publishing 2014.
2. Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
3. Mark Brazil. Birds of Japan. Helm Field Guides 2018.
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
5 & 11th June 2019
Location: East Hokkaidō, Japan