Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker) 

Kardinaalspeg [Afrikaans]; Isinqolamthi (also applied to Knysna woodpecker) [Xhosa]; iNqondaqonda [Zulu]; Mbangura (generic term for woodpecker and also applied to Crested barbet) [Kwangali]; Kokomoru [South Sotho]; Hohodza (generic name for woodpecker) [Shona]; Ghongoswana (generic term for woodpecker) [Tsonga]; Kôkômere, Phaphadikôta [Tswana]; Kardinaalspecht [Dutch]; Pic cardinal [French]; Kardinalspecht [German]; Pica-pau-cardeal [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Piciformes > Family: Picidae

Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker) 

Cardinal woodpecker male, in the process of excavating a tree cavity, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker)  Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker) 

Cardinal woodpecker male, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Cardinal woodpecker female, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

The Cardinal woodpecker is probably the most common and widespread of all African arboreal woodpeckers, with a range extending across sub-Saharan Africa. It is an extremely agile forager, gleaning ants and termites from bark and leaves, breaking open seed pods and even feeding on fruit. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a hole in the underside of a tree branch. Here it lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 12-13 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, eventually leaving the nest after about 27 days. They become fully independent 1-2 months after fledging.

Distribution and habitat

It is probably the most common and widespread of all African arboreal woodpeckers, occurring across most of Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding dense equatorial lowland forest. It is most common in woodland and savanna, avoiding arid areas.

Distribution of Cardinal woodpecker in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Scaly-throated honeyguide.

Food 

It is an extremely agile forager, gleaning ants and termites from bark and leaves, breaking open seed pods and occasionally feeding on fruit. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Uapaca kirkiana (Mahobohobo)
    • seeds
      • Combretum zeyheri (Large-bushwillow)

Breeding

  • Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a hole in the underside of a tree branch, although nesting in wooden fence posts has also been recorded.
Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker)  

Cardinal woodpecker at its nest hollow, Settlers, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

 
  • Egg-laying season is from July-December, peaking from August-October.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 12-13 days.
  • The chicks are cared for by both parents, eventually leaving the nest after about 27 days. They become fully independent 1-2 months after fledging.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 
 

 Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Birds home   Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search