Friday, May 7, 2010
Meet the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker
Most Filipinos who are not birdwatchers will readily admit that they don’t know many Philippine birds beyond the maya or Eurasian Tree Sparrow. What’s surprising though, is that many Filipinos are more familiar with foreign birds than Philippine birds. Even non-birdwatchers can easily identify birds like swans, flamingoes, penguins, cardinals, and woodpeckers. So it comes as a surprise to many people to discover that there are woodpeckers inside Ayala Alabang village. “Really?” they say.
Woodpeckers are not just American birds. There are 6 species of woodpeckers that are found in the Philippines. The woodpecker species that is found inside Ayala Alabang is the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos maculatus). It is the smallest of the woodpeckers found in the Philippines. It is also a Philippine endemic species, meaning that it is found only in the Philippines. It measures about 5 ½ inches in length with a black and white barred throat and chest, black back with white bars or stripes, and brown wings with white spots.
© Tonji Ramos 2010
With its small size and muted colors of brown and black, the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker can be difficult to see. It is also easy to mistake it for a maya. This is where the sense of hearing comes into play. It is usually easier to listen for the bird first and then try to locate the bird by sound. To see a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker in the village, first go to a place where they are likely to be found. Then, listen for their sound, try to pinpoint where the sound is coming from, and look for movement in the area. When it is feeding, it makes a tap-tap-tapping sound as its beak strikes the tree. It is known in Pilipino as Karpintero-maliit (small carpenter) because of the distinctive hammering sound it makes on the tree branches. It also has a call that sounds like a high-pitched, rapid-fire “tri-i-i-i-i-i-i”. It sounds like a tiny, trilling jackhammer. Two good areas to see these birds are Narra Park and the parking lot across from La Salle Zobel.
Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers are fascinating to watch. They use their feet to grasp and their tail to brace against the branches or trunk of a tree and they hop up and down the tree searching for insects. They can even walk upside down! They also constantly bob their heads up and down to get at the insects that are lodged within the crevices of the bark.
Walking upside down! © Tonji Ramos 2010
Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers also use their powerful beaks to make nesting holes, usually in dead branches. This is something that should be kept in mind when gardening or landscaping. Those dead branches that seem useless are actually likely homes for birds like the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker.
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