Ground foraging behaviour of the Buff-necked Woodpecker

The Buff-necked Woodpecker (Meiglyptes tukki) is a forest woodpecker species found in South-East Asia. The species is listed as a near threatened due to habitat loss. It is already locally extinct in Singapore, but can still be found in nearby Malaysia.

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(Female on a thin branch)

As the name implies, it has a buff-coloured neck patch. The male has a red submustachial stripe which the female lacks.

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(Male, foraging on excavated soil embankment, with insect prey on bill. To get this shot, I has to crouch on the roadside.)

I has an encounter with a family of four of these woodpecker one morning at Panti Forest, Malaysia in July 2013. They were first seen perched on thin branches next to the roadside. There have been some excavation work done to widen drainage and as such, there were loosened earth that exposed insects.

These woodpeckers seem to be attracted to their food source. Normally most forest woodpeckers prefer to find their food on tree trunks using their powerful bills to bore into the wood and dislodging insects and grubs. However the exposed earth where we observed them proved too tempting to pass up.

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(Using their feet and tail to support them as they normally would up on the tree trunks, the bird drill on the loose earth using its bill to expose insects)

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(Once found, the woodpecker here stretched out it’s neck and tongue to retrieve the insect. Although this shot is blurred, you can see the insect clearly at the end of the extended tongue)

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(A closer look at the insect on the bill of the male)

After the male has started the insect hunt, the rest of the family came in to feast on the ground. What is interesting is that not every bird used the same technique. Some merely tossed aside the leaf litter just like chickens would, to find their prey.

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(Four woodpeckers foraging on the ground. Notice the leaf that is tossed in mid-air to the left by the second woodpecker)

After they has their fill, they returned to the forest. One after another, they gathered on some thin branches of a tree next to the road. They left as they came.

Buff-necked Woodpecker
(A group portrait on a thin branch)

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