Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae rhodeogaster)

Grey-headed Woodpecker 1Our bird of the week  is the Grey Woodpecker, race rhodeogaster, which is sometimes considered conspecific with the Ethiopian spodocephalus and known as Grey-headed Woodpecker. This species species was photographed around central Kenya.

In Kenya we have 13 species of Woodpecker and they are amazingly beautiful to watch in the field. Most of the woodpeckers we have here are diamorphic, meaning male look different from the female.Grey-headed Woodpecker

Woodpeckers are known for tapping on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Woodpeckers also have, well, a head for pecking. For one, woodpeckers have tiny brains—just 0.07 ounce. The bigger the brain, the higher the mass and thus the higher the risk of brain injury according to biologist research work, hence the reason why woodpeckers don’t get a headache while pecking.

The woodpecker’s strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue, up to four inches in some species – with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects.

While most birds have one toe pointing back and three pointing forward on each foot, woodpeckers have two sharply clawed toes pointing in each direction to help them grasp the sides of trees and balance while they hammer – this formation is called zygodactal feet. Many woodpecker species also have stiffened tail feathers, which they press against a tree surface to help support their weight.

Woodpeckers live in wooded areas and forest where they tap on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Some species drum on trees to communicate to other woodpeckers and as a part of their courtship behavior. Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000-12,000 times per day.

 

Hemprich’s Hornbill (Tockus hemprichii)

J.F.L Van Duinen
J.F.L Van Duinen

Hemprich’s Hornbill is huge dark brown bird, with a massive dark red bill. The breast is dark, with a white-belly and the outer tailed rectrices is white. In Kenya, this bird is sparsely distributed in rocky hillsides and cliffs in arid and semi-arid country with records from Lake Nakuru around Menegai crater, Lake Baringo, West Lake Turkana, Ortum and Kongolei escarpment.

Purple Grenadier (Uraeginthus ianthinogaster)

Purple Grenadier (Uraeginthus ianthinogaster)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

Dark chestnut brown bird with red beak, black tail, and deep purplish blue rump. Male has purplish-blue feathers around the eyes, and purplish-blue breast, belly, and flanks. Female has less extensive (sometimes absent) blue feathering on the face, and often has white feathers around the eyes; female’s breast and belly is spotted or barred white. Juveniles appear similar to the female but paler, duller, and without white markings. The juvenile tends to be paler. Juveniles have blackish bills and their legs are paler than the adults’. Juveniles go through an early partial molt of the face feathers where males obtain their blue feathering and females their pale mauve feathering around the eyes.
This is a dimorphic species; the male sports blue on his face, breast, and belly. The female has less extensive blue on the face and sports white around the eyes as well as on the breast and belly. Usually form pairs and small parties. Courtship usually takes place on the ground with the male holding a stem or feather in his bill, singing and bowing his head as he bobs up and down, hoping to attract a female. An interested female may fly to the male, twist her head and tail toward him and possibly also show a display. Both male and female share nest construction, often building their round nest low in a bush or shrub. The male may continually line the nest with feathers during incubation, which both parents take turns doing through the day, with the hen incubating at night.
This species is widely distributed in Kenya and it should not be difficult to spot and identify this bird.