24 December 2016

Arabian Woodpecker

Arabian Woodpecker Dendrocopos dorae is an uncommon but widespread resident of the south-west highlands, Jebal Souda plateau on the dry east side as well as at Raydah Farm on the Raydah escarpment and Wadi Jaw at 1350 m are good areas to find the species as Talea Valley near Abha, the areas around Tanoumah and around Al Baha. Birds are usually associated with acacia trees but can be found in a variety of wooded habitats. The species also occurs in the Tihama at Jebal Gaha and Raith. The Arabian Woodpecker is a rather small, olive-brown woodpecker with white bars across its wings and red patch on the rear of the head of a male. Both sexes show a pale red patch down the centre of the belly. It has a distinct call which accelerates and, then descends “kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek”. It is the only woodpecker breeding in Arabia, has a typical woodpecker undulating flight, and only drums weekly and infrequently. They occur locally in the Red Sea foothills and western uplands of south-west Arabia, from the Yeman boarder to 26°N in Saudi Arabia. It is generally uncommon to rare where it occurs with approximately 0.1-1.0 mature individuals per km2. The total population is therefore inferred to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and it is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List 2006 as it has a small population of less than 10,000 mature birds, which is likely to be declining as a result of excessive cutting and lopping of trees for charcoal, firewood and fodder. Birds occur in a wide variety of fragmented woodland-types, from sea level up to 3,000 metres on mountain slopes, including: groves of fig Ficus, date-palm Phoenix or pandan Pandanus at lower altitudes; subtropical, evergreen riparian forest; traditional shade-coffee plantations and well-developed succulent shrubland at middle-altitudes; woods, groves and parklands of Acacia, Juniperus, Olea and Dracaena at higher altitudes (often on slopes terraced for agriculture); and old-established orchards in the highlands. Breeding records (February-May) are restricted to the highlands (1,450-2,400 m) with the nest-site being a small hole excavated in the trunk or major branch of a large tree.