Okinawa woodpecker (Dendrocopos noguchii)

Also known as: Noguchi's woodpecker, Pryer's woodpecker
Synonyms: Sapheopipo noguchii
GenusDendrocopos (1)
SizeLength: 31 - 35 cm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR - C2b) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

This russet-brown woodpecker is one of the most endangered members of the family. It is a medium-sized bird with dark-brown colouring, fading to tan around the head and neck (3). The male has a dark-red crown whilst that of the female is blackish (3). Juveniles tend to be duller and greyer than the adult birds (2). The Okinawa woodpecker gives a series of long irregular clear whistled notes such as 'kwe kwe kwe' or 'pwip pwip' (2).

Endemic to Okinawa Island, Japan, this species was thought to be on the brink of extinction as long ago as the 1930s (3). In the early 1990s the breeding population was estimated to be fewer than 100 individuals. The main breeding areas are located between Mt Nishime-take and Mt Iyu-take on Okinawa (3).

Inhabits mature, undisturbed evergreen broadleaved forest (2), much of which is now confined to the hilltops (2). Preferred areas include soft, decaying wood, which facilitates feeding (2).

Adults excavate nests of around 20 cm diameter in large, old trees and eggs are laid between late February and May (2). Nests are often reused in subsequent years and around 1 - 3 chicks are raised per brood (2).

Pecking and hammering at soft and rotten wood, usually situated close to the ground, the Okinawa woodpecker uncovers various food items including beetle larvae, spiders, moths and centipedes (2). Fruits, berries and seeds are also eaten, often situated further up in the canopy (2).

The Okinawa woodpecker requires forest that is at least 30 years of age, and a vast amount of suitable habitat on the island has been lost in the past century (2). Logging, dam construction, road building and agricultural development have all caused losses of prime habitat (3). The species is now restricted to small and fragmented populations that are at inherent risk from chance events such as disease and natural disasters (2).

The Okinawa woodpecker is protected by law in Japan and the area within which it is found was declared a National Park in 1996 (2). Deforestation is continuing to encroach on remaining tracts of pristine habitat however, and further action is still needed (2). Some conservation organisations have purchased areas of habitat in an effort to secure the future of this native bird, and investigation into the possibility of forest 'corridors' linking protected habitat is required (2).

For further information on the Okinawa woodpecker see:

Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2002)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. [eds.] (2002) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 7: Jacamars to woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.