Birds of Indian Subcontinent

Habits, Relationships, and Conservation of the Okinawa Woodpecker

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1973
Authors:Short, LL
Journal:The Wilson Bulletin
Date Published:1973
ISBN Number:00435643
Keywords:Asia, Blythipicus, Blythipicus rubiginosus, Dendrocopos, Dendrocopos noguchii, Gecinulus, Picidae, Picoides, Picus, Sapheopipo, Sapheopipo noguchii
Abstract:The endemic, endangered Okinawa Woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii), comprising a monotypic genus, inhabits scattered patches of original forest in northern Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Brief studies in February 1972 established that it forages by excavating for insects in trees, and particularly in rotting branches, and stubs, and in rotten trees and branches lying on the ground. It is found at low levels in trees and undergrowth, much as is Blythipicus rubiginosus in Southeast Asia. Various calls are described, as is drumming. Vocalizations show resemblances to those of Blythipicus and Picus. What is known of this woodpecker's anatomy, and its behavior strongly suggest that Sapheopipo noguchii is related to the Blythipicus-Gecinulus-Picus line of woodpeckers, and not to Picoides (Dendrocopos). Although only five to eight individuals actually were observed, information available from my field observations of its habitat, and from Ryukyu Island forestry officials suggests a population of 20 pairs (possibly as many as 60 pairs) distributed patchily over about 1500 ha of the Okinawan highlands. Wood-gathering, wood-cutting, forest clearing and replacement by exotic tree plantations, and fires are reducing the natural forests. Because the woodpecker requires undisturbed forest with plenty of rotting trees for foraging, and with standing trees and stubs 25 cm or more in diameter for nesting, the various human activities just mentioned are fragmenting its remaining small population and threatening it with immediate danger of extinction. Loss of this distinctive species and genus of woodpecker can be prevented only by fast action to establish one or, better, several effectively protected, suitably large preserves containing a few pairs of Okinawa Woodpeckers. Proper management of forests in the surrounding regions may permit reestablishment of the species over a large area, such that it no longer would be in danger.
Short Title:The Wilson Bulletin
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith