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The Himalayan Woodpecker

Updated: Apr 16

Notes from the Thought Train during The Dayara Bugyal - Dodital Trek, Garhwal.

The realm of Dendrocopos Himalayensis, the Himalayan Woodpecker, is spread over the oak, pine, and mixed forests of Kumaon & Garhwal, where these monogamous species spend their long lives. This relatively large woodpecker boasts a black back, white spots on the wings and shoulders, and a black stripe that runs around the ears to the bill. The top of the male’s head is red, while the female’s is black.

A forest echoing with the machine-gun-like knocking sounds made by these serial drillers is a sure sign of a healthy avian population.

Breeding pairs nest in self-made holes in tree trunks, and over a lifetime, they may create dozens of cavities. It takes weeks of "head-banging" craftsmanship to create a perfect hole. Once made, these nests become prime real estate in the forest and are often used by other species, like hornbills, mynas, civet cats, bees, snakes, squirrels, bats, jungle owlets, parakeets, etc., as safe homes.

In fact, even as these homes are being built, they attract a lot of attention from various bird species, especially breeding pairs on the lookout for a suitable home. Often the original homeowner and architect is evicted from its property by a more aggressive species. In a single season, the same cavity may be sequentially used by several species.

For their exceptional contribution to the ecosystem, woodpeckers are considered a ‘keystone species’, i.e., one without which the ecosystem would collapse.

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

- Shelley


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