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Tail-feathers always 12, outermost pair in the majority of genera short and often completely concealed by the coverts, so that these two feathers are difficult to find. Bill generally strong and in many forms modified into a cutting weapon, the end of upper mandible being vertical and chisel-shaped. With this weapon Woodpeckers cut away the bark of trees to look for insects, and make holes in the trunks or branches for nests. Many species by tapping on trees make a noise that may be heard a considerable distance, The nostrils are basal; above them, in several genera, a ridge known as nasal ridge commences, and runs, parallel to the culmen, to join or nearly to join the commissure. Tongue is excessively long, worm-like, and capable of great protrusion; it is supplied with viscid mucus from the large salivary glands, so that insects, their larvae and eggs adhere to it. The point of the tongue is horny and barbed. The hyoid cornua, which are of enormous length, slide round the skull, passing in a sheath from the side of the gullet round the occiput to the base of the upper mandible.
All Indian Picidae are insectivorous, a large proportion of them feeding mainly and some entirely on ants. All lay glossy white eggs, and all, with the exception of one genus, make holes in trees and lay their eggs in them, the eggs resting on the chips without any other lining to the hole. The exception is the genus Micropternus which lays its eggs in ants’ nests.
The Picidae are not found in Madagascar, Australia, or Polynesia, but range
through all other temperate and tropical regions. They are divided into three
subfamilies, thus distinguished:
Shafts of tail-feathers stout and rigid ...... Picinae
Woodpeckers are known as Kat-tokra, H., in Northern India, Lakhor-phor in the South; Kat-barya at Mussoorie; Katparwa in Oude; Lohár, Marathi; Manu-tolachi, Telugu; Marram-tolashi, Tamil; Tatchan-kurvi (Tamil in Ceylon); Koerella, Singhalese; Thit-touk, Burmese; these names being applied to all kinds. The Lepchas of Sikkim, as Jerdon observes, alone appear to have names for different species.
Subfamily PICINAE: This contains the true Woodpeckers, with very stout shafts to the tail-feathers, the points of which are pressed against the bark of trees when the birds are climbing or tapping to get at insects. The tail is frequently much worn, and hence varies considerably in length. Woodpeckers seldom perch, they cling to the stems and branches of trees with the tail always downward, and they usually ascend and descend diagonally. They have a peculiar undulating flight easily recognized. The Indian genera are numerous.
Key to the Genera
a. Primaries spotted or banded.
Nostrils concealed by harsh plumes; culmen slightly curved, a distinct nasal ridge, nearer to the culmen than to the commissure at the base of the bill. Four toes to each foot, the 3rd (outer anterior) toe longer than the 4th (outer posterior); tail less than two-thirds the wing in length; outermost tail-feather on each side very short, not nearly so long as the upper tail-coverts. Upper plumage green wholly or in part: sexes distinguished by portions of the head, generally of the crown, being red in males and not in females.
This genus, of which the type is the common European G. viridis, ranges almost throughout the Palaearctic and Oriental regions, and is represented by nine species within our area. Members of this genus obtain their insect-food more frequently on fallen trunks of trees and on the ground than Woodpeckers in general are wont to do.
Key to the Species
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