Fauna of India (Birds)  vol iii 1895 - by W. T. Blanford

Page 22
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Genus BRACHYPTERNUS, Strickland, 1841

Bill scarcely longer than head, the culmen curved; nasal ridge close to the culmen, but subobsolete; nostrils exposed. First (hind) digit and claw very small, together scarcely as long as one of the claws of the other digits; third and fourth toes subequal. Wings and tail longer than in Micropternus; outer tail-feathers a little longer than the coverts. A red occipital crest in both sexes; crown red in males, black with white spots in females; back yellow or red, lower parts black and white or fulvous. This genus is peculiar to India and Ceylon.

Key to the Species

Back yellow or orange .... B. aurantius
Back crimson            .... B. erythronotus

Brachypternus aurantius  Golden-backed Woodpecker

Picus aurantius and P. bengalensis, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, pp.174, 175 (1766)
Malacolophus melanochrysos, Hodgs. J.A.S.B. vi, p.109 (1837)
Brachypternus aurantius, Strickl. P.Z.S. 1841, p.31; Blyth, Cat. p.56; Horsf.& M.Cat. ii, p.654; Adams, P.Z.S. 1858, p.475; 1859, p.174; Jerdon B.I.i, p.295; Ball, S.F.vii, p.206; Cripps ib. p.203; Hume, Cat.no.180; Reid, S.F.x, p.25; Oates in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. ii. p.309
Brachypternus micropus, Blyth, J.A.S.B. xiv, p.194 (1845)
Brachypternopicus chrysonotus (Less.), apud Malh. Rev. Zool. 1845, p.404
Brachypternopicus puncticollis, Malh. t. c. p.405
Brachypternus dilutus, Blyth, Cat. p.56 (1849); id. Ibis, 1866, p.356; Jerdon, B. I. i, p.297; Hume, S.F. i, p.171; id, Cat.no. 182; Doig, S.F. viii, p.370
Brachypternus chrysonotus, apud Horsf.& M.Cat. ii, p.656; Jerdon, B.I.i, p.290; McMaster, J.A.S.B. xl, pt.2, p.209; Fairbank, S.F. iv, p.255
Brachypternus puncticollis, Holdsworth, P.Z.S. 1872, p.4 Hume, Cat.no.181; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p.205, pl. ix; Vidal, S.F.ix, p.53; Butler, ib. p.386; Davidson, Jour. Bomb. N. H. Soc. vi. p.336
Brachypternus intermedius, Legge, S.F. iv, p.242; White, S.F. v, p.201; Parker, S.F. ix, p.479
Brachypternus aurantius and B. puncticollis, Davison, S.F.x, p.356; Barnes, Birds Bom. pp.118, 119; Hargitt, Cat.B.M. xviii, pp.404, 407.

Coloration: Bill slaty black; irides red-brown; orbital skin dusky green; feet dark green; claws dusky (Jerdon).
Male. Forehead and crown black. The feathers tipped with crimson. Occipital crest bright crimson, the feathers with whitish shaft-stripes; a narrow stripe on each side of the crown, and a broad band through the eye to the nape, including upper lores and ear-coverts, mixed black and white. Remainder of sides of head, above and below the eye, and sides of neck white, often tinged yellowish. Hind neck, upper back, rump, and upper tail-coverts velvety black. Scapulars and interscapulary region golden yellow, sometimes tinged with orange-red. Most of the greater wing-coverts and some of the inner median coverts with the outer webs of the secondary quills golden olive, the other coverts black, nearly all coverts except along the forearm with a subterminal yellowish or olivaceous white spot, varying much in size; both webs of primaries and inner webs of secondaries brownish black, with large white spots. Tail-feathers entirely black. Malar region, chin, throat, and foreneck black, with numerous short white stripes or spots, this pattern passing gradually into that of the breast, where the feathers are buffy white with broad black borders, that become narrower on the abdomen. Flanks and under tail-coverts white with broad black bars, or black with large white spots (fig.8).
Female. Forehead and crown black, each feather with a terminal spot; a crimson occipital crest as in the male.

Nestling birds are sooty black and sullied white below, and the females want the white spots on the head.

Size: Length 11.5;  tail 3.75;  wing 5.5;  tarsus 0.95;  bill from gape 1.5.

Distribution: Throughout India and Ceylon, ranging throughout Sind and the Punjab, ascending the lower western Himalayas to about 3000 feet, and extending on the eastward to eastern Bengal and Cachar, but not to Assam.

The pale form from Sind, distinguished by Blyth as B. dilutus, is a well-marked geographical race, paler yellow on the back, all the interscapulary feathers with white shaft-stripes and dusky tips, with white spots along the shafts of the scapulars, and large white spots on the wing-coverts.

The dark Ceylon and Malabar and S. Indian form called B. micropus by Blyth and B. puncticollis by Malherbe, and wrongly identified with Picus chrysonotus of Lesson by several naturalists, has much smaller and more rounded white spots on the throat and fore neck, together with frequently a white bar near the base of each feather in those parts. Occasionally the foreneck (not the throat) is unspotted black. The black and white band through the eye is connected by a black stripe with the nape. The black edges of the breast-feathers are wider. But both in this case and in that of B. dilutus not only are intermediate forms between them and B. aurantius common, but there are in the Hume Collection characteristic skins of B. dilutus from Bengal and of B. puncticollis from Lucknow.

B. intermedius has a red back, and is probably a hybrid between the present woodpecker and B. erythronotus; and B. puncticollis itself, specially the very dark Ceylon birds, may result from an occasional cross with the red-backed species.

Habits: By far the commonest and most familiar of Indian woodpeckers, this is often seen about villages where there are trees, arid especially in mango-groves. It is also found in thin forest, and in Sind in tamarisk-scrub, and feeds much on ants; it is a bold noisy bird with a loud screaming call, often uttered on the wing. It breeds in northern India in March and April, and again in June and July, in Ceylon from February till June; the eggs, three in number as a rule, being often laid in northern India in a hole in a mango-tree. The eggs are white and glossy, and measure about 1.11 by 0.8.

Brachypternus erythronotus  Red-backed Woodpecker

Picus erithronothos, Vieillot,  Nouv. Dict. d’Hist. Nat. xxvi, p.73 (1818)
Picus ceylonus, Cuv. Règne Anim. ed. 2 i,  p.451 (1829)
Brachypternus erythronotus, Strickland, P.Z.S. 1841, p.31 Hargitt, Cat. B.M. xviii, p.409; Oates, in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed ii, p.311
Brachypternus ceylonus, Blyth, Cat. p.56; Layard, A.M. N.H. (2) xiii, p.449 (1854) Horsf. & M.Cat. ii, p.656; Blyth, Ibis, 1867, p.297; Holdsworth, P.Z.S. 1872, p.428; Hume, Cat. no.182 bis; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p.202, pl. viii

Coloration: Bill blackish, base and sides of under mandible leaden; iris red; legs and feet murky greenish, olivaceous green, or dusky sap-green (Legge).

Male. Forehead and crown black, the feathers tipped crimson. Occipital crest crimson, feathers more or less white-shafted. Sides of head black, with two buffy-white stripes, one from above the eye over the ear-coverts, the other from the base of the upper mandible below the eye and ear-coverts down the side of the neck. Supraorbital, upper loral, and malar regions spotted white, ear-coverts streaked with white. Back of neck and uppermost part of back, rump, and upper tail-coverts black, the rump-feathers edged with crimson. Back and scapulars bright crimson like the crest. Coverts and outer webs of secondaries duller crimson; generally several of the outer greater coverts and a few median coverts each with a subterminal pinkish-white spot; both webs of primary quills anti inner webs of secondaries black with white spots, except near the tips. Tail black. Chin and middle of throat like Malay region black with apical white spots, and generally with the base of the feathers white, sides of throat entirely black. Rest of lower parts white, often sullied, the feathers with black edges, which are so broad on the breast as to predominate, the white being frequently reduced to large spots. Flanks, thighs, and lower tail-coverts more or less barred with black.

Female. Forehead and crown black, with small white apical spots; occipital crest alone crimson.

Size: Length about 11.5;  tail 3.75;  wing 5.4;  tarsus 0.95;  bill from gape 1.5.

Distribution: Peculiar to Ceylon, found almost throughout the island up to 3500 or 4000 feet elevation.

Habits: Very similar to those of B. aurantius. According to Legge this Woodpecker is partial to coconut and other trees in cultivation, but is also common in forest. it is pugnacious, fear less, and active, and has a loud harsh call; it lives largely on red ants. It breeds in southern Ceylon from February till June, and not infrequently lays its eggs, which appear not to have been described, in a hole cut into the stem of a dead coconut-tree.

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