Nesting of a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers

Diversity Trail Seng Alvin

The Rufous Woodpeckers chose to nest at a tree by the side of Diversity trail at the Tampines Eco Green. Photo: Seng Alvin.

Contributed by Birder Dawn and Seng Alvin 18 March 2016

I was birding with friends at the Tampines Eco Green on the 28 February 2016 when a darkish woodpecker flew across our path. From the plumage I knew it was a Rufous Woodpecker, Celeus brachyurus, an uncommon resident found in forests, mangroves and parklands.

The nest is in the middle of the small tree by the side of the path, well hidden from sight. Photo: Seng Alvin and Birder Dawn.

We followed it to a small tree by the side of the trail hoping to get a shot. We found it perched near an old termites nest in the middle of the tree.

28.2.16 One of the chicks BD

One of the two few days old chicks inside the nest 28.2.16. Photo Birder Dawn.

When we got nearer we were surprised to find two young birds inside the nest. Their eyes were still closed. They must have hatched only a few days ago. The parent was actually bringing back food to feed the hungry chicks. We were so elated to discover the nest and witness the nesting.

14.3.16 BD

Two fully grown chicks about to face the outside world. Photo: Birder Dawn

The first documented nesting ( Ridley 1898) at the Botanic Gardens was also in a tree-ant nest. Recent records of their nesting were in ant nests as well. A good example of how a different genus can benefit another. These ant nests are softer and easy to excavate than tree trucks. These woodpeckers have been seen foraging for any larvae at these termite nests as well.

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Papa bird busy feeding its grown chicks on 11.3.16. Photo: Seng Alvin

Why do these woodpeckers chose to nest so close to a walking path used by park visitors. Could it be that this termite’s nest is the only one available? As it was very hidden the woodpeckers must have felt safe to use it. We knew that this is a critical stage of the nesting and any disturbance may result in the parents abandoning the nest. After a few quick record shots we left them alone.

Clearing waste 13.3.16

Besides feeding Papa also did the house keeping 13.3.16 Photo: Seng Alvin.

My decision to return two weeks later to check on them was spot on. Both chicks fledged a few hours apart, much to my relief. My estimate is that they took close to three weeks from the time they hatched to fledged

14.3.16 Pecking BD

The first fledgling up on the tree trunk pecking away instinctively. 14.3.16. Photo: Birder Dawn

The first fledgling was already climbing up a tree trunk and instinctively started pecking on it. But it fell off the tree trunk as it legs were not strong enough to cling on to the bark. They would move to a semi bushy edges and wait for the parents to feed them. A survival move that will bode well for its early existence. Great to see another pair of these beautiful woodpeckers adding to the biodiversity of our green places.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.

 

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