Arabian woodpecker (Dendrocopos dorae)

Arabian woodpecker, side view
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Arabian woodpecker fact file

Arabian woodpecker description

GenusDendrocopos (1)

This small, greyish-brown bird is rather drab except for the crimson patch on the back of the head of the male, and the red patch at the centre of the belly of both sexes, which look somewhat like smudges of paint (2). White bars extend across the blackish wings and its long, chisel-tipped bill is slate-grey and perfectly adapted for delivering blows to the trunk of a tree (2) (3).

Pic d'Arabie.
Length: 18 cm (2)
19 – 20 g (2)

Arabian woodpecker biology

With their incredibly long, slightly barbed tongue, coated with a sticky substance, the African woodpecker can easily catch insects such as fig wasps and aphids to eat. It also uses its strong bill to hammer and probe open bark, to extract wood-boring insects and ants. In the winter, when insects are less common, it will also feed on the sap that oozes out from the tree (2) (3).

The African woodpecker is most often seen singly or in pairs, and generally breeds from March to May (2). With their sturdy bill they chisel out a nest-hole in live or dead wood; their unusually thick skull helps absorb the shock from these powerful strikes (3). A clutch of three eggs is laid in the nest and incubated by both the male and the female for 11 days. Both birds also share the responsibility of feeding the chicks. The young fledge after only 22 days, but remain in the nesting area for a further two months (2).


Arabian woodpecker range

The Arabian woodpecker occurs in the south-western Arabian Peninsula; in Yemen and Saudi Arabia (2).


Arabian woodpecker habitat

The Arabian woodpecker inhabits woodland, palm and fig groves, coffee plantations, and old-established orchards, from sea level up to 3,000 metres on mountain slopes (2) (4).


Arabian woodpecker status

The Arabian woodpecker is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Arabian woodpecker threats

Centuries of human settlement and its associated activities has left the Arabian woodpecker’s woodland habitat highly fragmented (2). The removal of trees for building, firewood and charcoal, or to create space for agriculture, continues to decrease the area of suitable habitat for the woodpecker, particularly as it is dependent on large trees for its nesting sites (2) (4).


Arabian woodpecker conservation

The Arabian woodpecker occurs in at least two protected areas in Saudi Arabia, Raydah Reserve and Asir National Park (4), and further measures have been proposed to ensure that this fascinating bird does not become further threatened. These include the designation of additional protected areas, the encouragement of traditional, non-intensive methods of woodland management, and raising local people’s awareness of their native woodpecker (2) (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the Arabian woodpecker see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2002) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 7: Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  4. BirdLife International (October, 2007)

Image credit

Arabian woodpecker, side view  
Arabian woodpecker, side view

© Hanne & Jens Eriksen

Hanne & Jens Eriksen


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