Male Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

on 8th September 2021


Male Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

(Dendrocopos moluccensis)

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It is also known as Brown-capped Woodpecker. It is one of the smallest woodpeckers but is very successful in Singapore. Originating from the mangrove areas it has spread inland and is now found almost everywhere, even amongst trees lining busy main roads. However it is not easily seen as it is small and well camouflaged against the brown tree trunks and branches where it forages.

On first look, it is a small bird (about 12cm), mostly brown covered with irregular rows of white spots and bars. The male has a brown cap stretching from forehead to hind neck. The white face is crossed by two dark brown bands. The first one is the broad eye stripe that extends backwards to the ear coverts and which then turns downwards along the side of the neck. The second thinner band is the sub-moustachial stripe, also extending down the side of neck.

The male also has a small, short red streak along the edge of the hind-crown. This tiny red fleck is virtually impossible to see in the field. It is most probably hidden by overlying feathers. I was quite lucky to be able to see it (on 2nd March 2016 at Serangoon Garden, Singapore) because it was high up in a leafless tree when constant strong wind blew up its crown feathers, revealing the red streak beneath. Without the red streak, it would be difficult to tell the sexes apart. I have not seen the red streak on the many other pygmy woodpeckers sighted in the area.

I wonder whether the male is able to erect its crown feathers to expose its red patch during courtship dance. Current birders can make it a point to look out for it and document it. I will be very happy to continue the story with your help.


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Article and photos by Wong Kais

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