Appearance The Cardinal Woodpecker is a small, 5.5" (14cm) bird which is brown above, featuring a back that is barred with white. Its tail and wings are barred pale yellow, the tail also featuring shafts of yellow. Its neck and underparts are grey / white. Its belly and breast are streaked with brown, with barring on the flanks. It has reddish brown eyes, set into a whitish face and a brown stripe from beneath the bill, down its throat (malar stripe). Above the brown forehead, is a red cap and nape in males; black in females.
Habits Cardinal Woodpeckers are usually seen alone, sometimes in pairs and very occasionally seen in the company of other birds.
Diet Cardinal Woodpeckers drill and drum on trees, searching for grubs and insects. A specially adapted cranial 'cushion' protects their brain from the repeated shocks. They have long, sticky tongues, with bristles, to extract their food from crevices. Often seen around animal skulls, where they feed on the larvae that borrow into the horns of larger herbivores.
Resident Cardinal Woodpeckers are found in all manner of woodlands, in the majority of the areas of Kenya, except the far north west and eastern desert areas. Often seen in gardens and it is very approachable.
Extra Cardinal Woodpecker Facts Cardinal Woodpeckers excavate their own nests in trees, continuously drumming and drilling into the wood. Their very stiff tail-feathers hold them upright on trees, allowing them to be parralell to the bark, while they drill. Cardinal Woodpeckers were named after the holy Roman Cardinals and their red caps.
Photographs Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.