Family: Picidae (woodpeckers)

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Species indigenous to southern Africa

Campethera abingoni (Golden-tailed woodpecker)

The Golden-tailed woodpecker is fairly common in sub-saharan Africa, preferring riparian, Miombo and Mopane woodland. It mainly forages in trees, tapping and probing branches, looking for insects and licking them up with its barbed tongue. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a hole in the underside of a tree branch. Here it lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, eventually leaving the nest after about 22-25 days. They become fully independent a few weeks after fledging.

Campethera bennettii (Bennett's woodpecker) 

The Bennett's woodpecker is found from Tanzania south to southern Africa, where it occurs in deciduous woodland and savanna with tall trees. It feeds mainly on ants, their their eggs and pupae, foraging them by excavating underground ant nests, scooping them up with its sticky tongue. It uses cavities in trees as nests, making it themselves are using pre-existing holes. It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 15-18 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 26-27 days, after which they remain dependent on their parents until the next breeding season.

Campethera cailliautii (Green-backed woodpecker, Little spotted woodpecker) 

Campethera notata (Knysna woodpecker) 

The Knysna woodpecker is endemic to South Africa, being found in woodlands and thickets along the southern coastline. It mainly forages in trees, searching dead branches for invertebrates and gleaning ants from branch and leaves. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a hole in the underside of a branch, often reused over multiple breeding seasons. Here it lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for roughly 21-13 days (estimated). The chicks are fed by both parents, and stay in the nest for an estimated 25-27 days.

Campethera scriptoricauda (Speckle-throated woodpecker) 

Dendropicos fuscescens (Cardinal woodpecker)

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.

Dendropicos griseocephalus (Olive woodpecker)

The Olive woodpecker has two isolated subspecies in Africa - one is in Central Africa, and the other is endemic to South Africa, living in evergreen forests. It forages in the upper canopies of trees, probing pecking branches, and licking them up with its barbed tongue. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a oval-shaped hole in the trunk of a tree. Here it lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for roughly 15-16 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, leaving the nest at about 24-26 days old. The juveniles return to the nest to roost for about 3 months, at which point they become fully independent.

Dendropicos namaquus (Bearded woodpecker) 

The Bearded woodpecker occurs from central Africa to southern Africa, absent largely from the DRC. It dislikes dense forest, preferring deciduous woodland and savanna. It mainly forages in trees, tapping and probing branches in search of insects, licking them up with its barbed tongue. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is usually a oval-shaped hole in the trunk of a tree, although it has been recorded nesting in fence posts. Here It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for roughly 13 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, leaving the nest at about 27 days old. The juveniles become fully independent roughly 1-2 months after fledging.

Geocolaptes olivaceus (Ground woodpecker)

The Ground woodpecker is endemic to South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho, being found in hilly, mountainous areas. It has a highly specialized diet, with about 99.8% of its diet ants, digging up subsurface ant nests, licking them up with its sticky tongue. Its nest is excavated by both sexes, and consists of a tunnel and egg chamber, normally dug into earthen banks. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes. The chicks are cared for by both parents, begging loudly for them to regurgitate food (see image). The fledglings stay dependent on their parents until the onset of the next breeding season.

Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck)

The Red-throated wryneck has populations scattered across sub-saharan Africa, including one confined to South Africa and Swaziland. It is highly specialized, living only in grassland, and feeding exclusively on ants and termites. It usually nests in tree cavities made by other birds, but it also can use natural tree holes and nest boxes. It lays 16, usually 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, staying in the nest for about 25-26 days. The juveniles become independent soon after fledging. 

 
 

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