987. Brachypternus erythronotus.
The Red-backed Woodpecker.
Picus erithronothos, Vieillot, Nouv. Diet. d'Hist. Nat. xxvi, p. 73 (1818). Picus ceylonus, Cuv. Regne Anim. (id. 2e, 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. 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 and inner webs of secondaries black with white spots, except near the tips; tail black; chin and middle of throat like malar 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.
Bill blackish, base and sides of under mandible leaden; iris red; legs and feet murky greenish, olivaceous green, or dusky sap-green (Legge).
Length about 11.5 inches; tail 3.75; wing 5.4; tarsus .95; bill from gape 1.5.
Distribution. Peculiar to Ceylon, found almost throughout the island up to 3500 or 4000 feet elevation.
Habits, &c. Very similar to those of B. aurantius. According to Legge this "Woodpecker is partial to cocoanut and other trees in cultivation, but is also common in forest. It is pugnacious, fearless, 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 unfrequently lays its eggs, which appear not to have been described, in a hole cut into the stem of a dead cocoanut-tree.