986. Brachypternus aurantias.
The 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. 263; 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. i} M. Cat. ii, p. 656; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 296; McMaster, J. A. S. B. xl, pt. 2, p. 209; Fair-bank, S. F. iv, p. 255. Brachypternus puncticollis, Holdsworth, P. Z. S. 1872, p. 428; Hume, Cat. no. 181; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 205, pi. 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. 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 fore neck 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, p. 14).
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.
Bill slaty black; irides red-brown; orbital skin dusky green; feet dark green ; claws dusky (Jerdon).
Length 11.5; tail 3.75 ; wing 5.5; tarsus .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 fore neck (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. intermedins has a red back, and is probably a hybrid between the present "Woodpecker and B. erythronotus; and B. puncticollis itself, especially the very dark Ceylon birds, may result from an occasional cross with the red-backed species.
Habits, &c. By far the commonest and most familiar of Indian Woodpeckers, this is often seen about villages where there are trees, and 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 .8.