Part 3 - "Pygmy" Woodpeckers


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This is a rather unique group of birds, more so when imagine that Woodpeckers are normally fair size birds noisily pecking away. But these extremely tiny birds do display that behavior of pecking as well. Smaller bird generating  lighter knocking noise. But one equate the noise level vis--vis the size of the bird. I would say it is relatively very loud considering the bird is a midget..

The Gray and Brown-capped are common birds in the mangrove forest. Knowing their habits it is fairly easy to locate them. They too do encroached into built up areas but among the trees in the Park.

The Piculets are forest birds. Unlike their birds from the mangrove forest are very difficult birds to meet up with. I am unsure of their habits. I have seen them under varying conditions. They do peck on to tree trunks but not all the time, Well, at least one habit that we can talk about and a pattern that could be established

Small size Woodpeckers

Speckled Piculet Picumnus innominatus
Rufous Piculet Sasia abnormis
Brown-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos moluccensis
Gray-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus

Lesser Seen Woodpecker

White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis
Streak-breasted Woodpecker Picus viridanus
Gray-faced Woodpecker Picus canus
Olive-backed Woodpecker Dinopium rafflesii
Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia

Within the group of birds which we term as Woodpeckers, like the Kingfishers do have good size birds commonly known as Woodpeckers and some much smaller ones called Piculets & Woodpeckers. Bilologocally, these birds are group in different families and sharing same characteristics like chisel sharp beak and hammering rapidly on woody surfaces.

Here these tiny birds prefer bamboo plants if they are in deep forest while the other prefer Mangrove trees if they are near the seas. Piculets are hard to spot due to their smaller size especially amidst the dense bamboo clumps. Though difficult to spot, going into their habitats often would automatically generate that chance encounter with ease.


15. Speckled Piculet  Picumnus innominatus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 10 cm. Rounded bird with a short tail. Crown in dull Olive colored shared with ear coverts and having a sub-moustachial stripe in black and white. Upper part all olive green and under part in white. First from the throat large dark black spots and belly with thick bars.

 Distribution :-  Resident in North-west Pakistan to northern sub-continent India, South-east Tibet to south China, then Sumatra and Borneo. Outside the belt, the bird can also be found in malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the sub-montane forest in Malaysia.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- So far over the few occasions, I had only seen the bird in one place. Frasers Hills.
My personal jotting :-

With little opportunity of seeing it often, information on this bird is sketchy. I am still trying to locate more pictures of the bird taken some years back and have not got the chance to see again after all these times.


Record of bird's call:-     and Video:-

Speckled  Piculet # 1

Speckled  Piculet # 2

Speckled  Piculet  # 3

Speckled  Piculet  # 4

Speckled  Piculet  # 5

16. Rufous Piculet  Sasia abnormis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 9 cm. Very small size, sometimes could associate the bird as a Beetle flying pass. Significant is the uniformed rufous under part and also the even colored dark Olive upper part that stretch over the crown. The face and ear followed the color of the under part. Pinkish eyes

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the Greater Sundas. fairly common bird from the south Thailand down the Peninsula Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- Bamboo thickets and primary forest of the lowland. Seen in Gohtong Jaya, near to sub-montane habitats.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The birds were common in Rengit, Bukit Laggong and in Gohtong Jaya as I mentioned.
My personal jotting :-

This is the smallest bird I have encountered at 9 cm. The first time as shown in the series of pictures below, taken in Bukit Laggong. I thought that it was a Beetle, at least the first impression I got in that fleeting moment. At other meetings, I thought the very colorful orange bird was a Sunbird.

Since it is very tiny, sighting is through the flight of a very colorful little bird and the soft drumming of a typical Woodpecker. There were 2 scenes that I have noted. One the bird was stationary busy pecking away while most other times, it was constantly on the move without a minute pause for a decent picture to be taken. Besides pecking on tree trunks, many sighting was the bird foraging on green leaves.



Rufous Piculet  # 1

Rufous Piculet   # 2

Rufous Piculet   # 3

Rufous Piculet   # 4

Rufous Piculet  # 5

Rufous Piculet   # 6

Rufous Piculet  # 7

Rufous Piculet   # 8

Rufous Piculet   # 9

Rufous Piculet   # 10

Rufous Piculet  # 11

Rufous Piculet   # 12

Pygmy Woodpeckers

 It is simply the usage of word that I have opt for "tiny" or the officially chosen "Pygmy" to describe this pair of small Woodpeckers.

Within the confine of the mangrove forest, there are 2 Pygmy Woodpeckers. Both the Brown-capped and the Grey-capped Woodpecker can be seen at the same place. The Brown-capped was re-named from the previously known Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. As the name imply, this Brown-capped Woodpecker is among the very small bird at 12.5 cm.


17.Grey-capped Woodpecker  Dendrocopos canicapillus auritus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 15 cm. The Grey-capped Woodpecker could measures up to 14 cm.  It is has light grayish crown and a strong contrasting stripe across the eyes. The sub-moustachial stripe is there but is very faint. This is the main point when comparing the bird with the Sunday Pygmy Woodpecker, the crown though grayish could also appear as confusing lighter shades under different lightings. There is also the tiny red stripe on the side  at the rear of the crown for the male bird. The breast had dark streaks but Buffy.

 Distribution :-  Resident in Pakistan, foothills of the Himalayas in India and China. Then Korea and Taiwan, then south to Sumatra and Borneo. Very common Woodpecker in Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a forest bird that prefers lowland coastal district but do stray far way from the coast at times.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Most times seen in the forest edge near the areas within sight of the coast. yes, moving on trees near mangrove forest and sometimes on Mangrove trees too. I doubt that they remain exclusively inside in Mangrove forest. So far for me, I have not seen them deep into the mangrove forest.
 My personal jotting :- I would look hard for the stripe at the side of the neck which is more diagnostic. Talking about the gray or the brown caps, it is easy to make out that differences as they are quite pronounced when comparing this details with 2 pictures. Think of the time when we are in the field that slight difference in shade is quite misleading and almost impossible to tell for sure. Trying to tell the difference through sizes? That very slight difference in size is not easy to estimate.

The Grey-capped Woodpecker is marginally larger at 14 cm. This is a mere number. Seasoned birder could grasp bird sizes like a master, how many other could?  Also with the lighting at that time, making out the color of the tiny patch on the crown may not be a straightforward task. The grey -capped has a grey patch. More so when the bird keeps moving. I find that a better way to make a positive ID, getting the picture first. This is the most affirmative. But not all is lost, focus on the sub-moustachial stripe. Good thing that the male of this bird is gifted with another minute red stripe on the side of the rear crown. Sighting makes ID as Grey -capped affirmative as well knowing that it is a male.

The Grey-capped Woodpecker which is a larger bird prefers Mangrove forest and sometimes in lowland forest. Not surprising then, this is a common bird in Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Matang Forest or Kuala Gula. Chances of meeting up with the bird is more than average.

Record of bird's call:-     and Video:-
Grey-capped Woodpecker #1  Grey-capped Woodpecker # 2 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 3
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 4 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 5 Grey-capped Woodpecker #  6
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 7 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 8 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 9
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 10 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 11 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 12
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 16 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 17 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 18
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 19 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 20 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 21
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 22 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 23 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 24
Grey-capped Woodpecker # 25 Grey-capped Woodpecker #26 Grey-capped Woodpecker # 27

One of the method to ascertain darker or lighter shades is to make comparison of that on the crown with the submoustachial stripe.  Is it in the same shade of the stripe on the crown?

Darker crown! Then it is a Grey-capped. This bird has pale grey crown but dark crown sides matched by a light colored submoustachial stripe. For Brown-capped - it is the lighter colored crown, the bird has a brown cap with less blackish crown side combined with a well defined submoustachial stripe.

While the shades of grey or brown may not appear definitive under the varying lightings, the rule of the thumb would be darker crown would be a Grey-capped while a lighter one would likely be a Brown-capped. Would be nice if both bird would appear simultaneously within same vicinity on the same visit, then the judgment by size will still be fresh in the mind.

With pictures all laid out in the comfort of the room for slow analysis, just think of the daunting moments in the field to ID a moving bird,


18. Brown-capped Woodpecker  Dendrocopos moluccensis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 13 cm. The Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker is smaller measuring only 13 cm.  It is has distinctly brownish crown and same as the Gray-capped has a strong contrasting stripe across the eyes. A well defined sub-moustachial stripe. This is the main point when comparing the bird with the Gray-capped Woodpecker.  There is also the tiny red stripe on the side  at the rear of the crown. The breast with its dark streaks broader and diffused..

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the Sundas. Greater and Lesser Sundas. This bird is common in Malaysia too.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a mangrove forest bird. Funny thing is that it may stray far away from the mangrove forest and appear in Public park. Seen it near my house and Kiara Park.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Fairly common in all mangrove forest. Just wait for the beating sound and calls.
 My personal jotting :- Encounters with the Sunda Pygmy is more often than the Gray-capped. Now that I have so many pictures of this bird, I would know where to spend more time studying. Luckily the birds stayed for a while, give me plenty of opportunity for it to have the cap facing me and allowing me to study the bird carefully.

In the picture set below, I managed to locate one picture that I had showing the tiny red stripe for the male.

Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 1 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 2 Brown-capped Woodpecker# 3
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 4 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 5 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 6
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 7 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 8 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 9
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 10 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 11 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 12
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 16 Brown-capped Woodpecker# 17 Brown-capped Woodpecker# 18
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 19 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 20 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 21
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 22 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 23 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 24
Brown-capped Woodpecker # 25 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 26 Brown-capped Woodpecker # 27

I would still like to refer the bird as Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker is more difficult as the bird is tinier at 13 cm.

In the field it is so difficult to make a guess as to the tiny Woodpecker being 13 or 14 cm. Most times the bird would be at 100 feet away. The ID of this bird was much mentioned in earlier Para.

For habitat, the Brown-capped Woodpecker chooses exclusively Mangrove forest.

The pictures below are selected pictures that focus on the distinctly brown shades on the crown. I have only taken a small collections from the many photographs that I accumulated from this very friendly bird.


From the amount of pictures that I manage to salvage for this page, you can gauge the frequencies that I had met up with each species. Actually preparing these pages do help in my planning for outings. I have clear vision of where I should be going and the type of birds I desire. My task would be filling up my archive of pictures, at the same time making note of the pattern that these bird got encountered.