|Photo by Ian White (Flickr)|
ground woodpecker (en); pica-pau-das-rochas (pt); pic laboureur (fr); pico de la tierra (es); erdspecht (de)
This species is endemic to South Africa, being found in most of the southern, eastern and western parts of the country, as well as in Lesotho and Swaziland.
These birds are 22-30 cm long and weigh 105-135 g.
The ground woodpecker is found in rock and boulder strewn mountain slopes, usually in treeless grasslands and scrublands, but also near swamps and marshes. they are present from sea level up to an altitude of 2.100 m.
They are highly specialized on ants, digging up subsurface ant nests and licking them up with its sticky tongue. They take adult ants as well as larvae, pupae and eggs, of Camponotus, Anoplolepis, Acantolepis, Crematogaster, Tetramorium, Pheidole, Meranoplus and Solenopsis. Sometimes they also eat beetles and termites.
Ground woodpeckers breed in July-December, with a peak in August-September. They breed in pairs or trios, with both sexes excavate the nest, a long tunnel with an chamber at the end which is usually dug into earthen banks, such as riverbanks and gullies, or in crumbling walls of abandoned buildings or termite mounds. There the female lays 2-5 eggs which are incubated by both parents and possibly also helpers. There is no information regarding the incubation and fledging periods, but the chicks are fed by both parents and helpers and remain with the parents until the onset of the following breeding season.
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is reported to be common in most of its range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.