View Full Version : Method of food collection by male Speckled Piculet for its nestlings

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:30 PM
A Piculet is one of the members of the ‘woodpecker” family. And the Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus) is one of the only two Piculets found in India. The other one is the White-browed Piculet. In this article I will try to narrate some of my experiences about the Speckled Piculet.

A few days back I went to a bird sanctuary in a place named Kitam [average height from MSL 2000 feet], situated in southern part of Sikkim and discovered this cute and funny bird a few meters before the Forest Range Office there, just on the uphill side of the road. The reason why I called this bird “funny’ is due to its unusually small size, about 3 inches, compared to the 6 inches size which we are accustomed to see most of the times. Obviously, a woodpecker of length three inches will be amusing to us. Its area of foraging is completely different; the parched leaves and branches of the vegetation of the foothills. Most of the standard woodpecker of size six inches will surely not be able to sit on the small branches of trees where these birds can easily sit. Therefore the apparently invisible habitats of the ants in the dry leaves and branches are under total control of these birds. The manner the Piculets sit and move around is quite different from that of the woodpeckers. Unlike the woodpeckers, the Piculets don’t use their tails as a prop and like the other small sized birds, such as warbler, flycatchers, tits etc. they can sit on slender tree branches in an upright position.

These birds are seen in moist deciduous and semi evergreen forests in areas ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas in India to outside India in Pakistan in the north west, in Bangladesh in the north east and in Mayanmar. Their habitats are mainly in the dense under-growths and bamboo thickets of the forests.

A minute attention to the bird will reveal that there is an orange patch in the front portion of its forehead. And this will proof that the bird is a male one. In the case of the female counterparts this orange patch is absent.

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:32 PM
Now I will narrate a fascinating feature of this bird. The first time I saw the bird, it had nothing in its mouth.

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:34 PM
It landed on a dry and thin branch and started making a hole on it by pecking with its beak. All the woodpeckers including these Piculets have a peculiar capability of sensing where inside the dry leaves or the branches some insects or ants are hiding.

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:35 PM
Immediately after the hole is made it climbed a little upwards in the branch and tapped on it a few times.

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:37 PM
Then without wasting a moment it came downwards near the hole, inserted its long tongue into it and when it withdrew its tongue it was smeared with a large number of larvae and a full-grown ant.

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:38 PM
And then it turned towards me and showed its bounty to me!:001_smile:

Samrat Sarkar
09-05-2016, 06:43 PM
In these context we can come to some conclusions from our observations and may be listed as:

1] The male birds play an active role in feeding their chicks.

2] The whole process completes within 3 to 4 minutes.

3] The main, if not the sole, nourishment of the young Piculets just from hatching to the time when pin-feathers start growing on their skin are the eggs and the larvae of the ants. [ Reference: Life history of the Olivaceous Piculet and related forms by Alexander F. Skutch, received on 19 September 1947,(Page 433 to Page 449) IBIS, 90...]. As the feathers start growing they feed on full grown ants along with eggs and larvae. The pictures here show that feathers have grown on the skin of its chick; they have become 10 to 12 days of age.

4] The tongues of all the woodpeckers are quite long and are normally kept in a rolled up condition in a small space inside the head.

5] I have seen the bird disappearing with a mouthful of food in a dry branch of a tree in the downhill. I am sure that its nest was somewhere very close there.

Equipment used - Canon 7D + Canon 500mm f4 + Monopod
Images are edited and cropped
Comments and critiques are welcome..

Roopak Gangadharan
13-05-2016, 03:11 PM
nice series Samrat. this bird is very similar in size, appearance and manner to the pigmy woodpeckers . Some good observations and images. the technique it using to feed here is interesting. I have not seen this before.


Samrat Sarkar
17-05-2016, 12:06 PM
Dear Roopak ji

I completly agree with you regarding the foraging behaviour of piculets..but the piculets prefer collecting ants from bushes and bamboo thickets whereas pygmy woodpeckers like to search their food from tree trunks in well wooded areas..

Mrudul Godbole
17-05-2016, 05:34 PM
Nice observations. Nature has provided interesting behaviour to some species to get their food :). Good images. Thanks for sharing.

Sandipan Ghosh
23-06-2016, 01:02 AM
Great research and documentary....I have learn a lot from you dada

Samrat Sarkar
23-06-2016, 08:30 AM
Thanks a lot Mrudul ji and Sandipan for your inspiring words...

you can also see my new post on insects of a tea garden near Kushiang, West Bengal in this following link


thanks again