Speckle-chested piculet (Picumnus steindachneri)

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Perched speckle-chested piculet
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Speckle-chested piculet fact file

Speckle-chested piculet description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPiciformes
FamilyPicidae
GenusPicumnus (1)

A tiny woodpecker measuring up to just ten centimetres in length, the speckle-chested piculet (Picumnus steindachneri) is named for the mosaic of black and white feathers on its breast, which gives it a speckled appearance. This distinctive patterning extends onto the head and merges into rough black and white stripes on the belly. The upperparts are dark grey with a faint, pale scaling and the neat wing feathers are fringed with white (2). Like all woodpeckers (birds in the Picidae family), the speckle-chested piculet has a sturdy bill, capable of hammering at wood, and a remarkably long tongue, used to gather insects from tiny holes or narrow crevices (3).

The male speckle-chested piculet can be distinguished from the female by the vivid red-tipped feathers that adorn its crown (2).

The call of the speckle-chested piculet is a high pitched, rapid, falling trill: “tree’e’e’e’e’e’e.” (4).

Size
Length: 10 cm (2)
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Speckle-chested piculet biology

Piculets are agile birds, well adapted to a life in the trees. They hop with ease from branch to branch and are capable of walking head first down tree trunks. Due to a lack of research, little is known about the exact diet of the speckle-chested piculet. However, other piculet species typically feed on arthropods and their larvae, most commonly ants, termites and wood-boring beetles. These invertebrates live in the bark and soft wood of trees and thus are easy prey for the piculets, which use their sharp beaks to chip away wood (3) (5), and may then use their extraordinarily long tongue to wipe up the exposed insects (3).

Piculets are cavity nesters, using the soft and rotten wood of old trees to build their nests (5). Once the nest has been constructed, 2 to 4 eggs are laid and incubated for 12 to 14 days. Males and females take joint responsibility for feeding the young, and after 21 to 24 days the young are ready to leave the nest (5). The speckle-chested piculet can be sighted singly, in a pair, or in a small family group and often forms flocks with other bird species (2).

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Speckle-chested piculet range

The speckle-chested piculet is native to Peru where it has a very restricted range. It is known only from the Andes in the regions of San Martin and Amazonas (2).

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Speckle-chested piculet habitat

An inhabitant of humid tropical and lower montane forest, the speckle-chested piculet occurs in areas where there is an abundance of epiphytes between 1,100 and 2,200 metres above sea level (2)

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Speckle-chested piculet status

The speckle-chested piculet is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1)

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Speckle-chested piculet threats

In the 1980s, deforestation for the establishment of coca plantations was the largest threat to the speckle-chested piculet. Today, habitat loss remains the greatest threat, primarily due to human population growth and immigration in the region which has led to an increase in logging and agriculture, particularly coffee plantations. Such habitat alteration reduces the number of nesting areas and the supply of food for the speckle-chested piculet, considerably disrupting its activity and ability to reproduce. These threats are most prominent in the south-eastern parts of the speckle-chested piculet’s range, where forest is now restricted to only the highest slopes (2)

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Speckle-chested piculet conservation

While in most areas forest clearance continues unabated, the speckle-chested piculet’s habitat is protected within the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, an area which has been protected since 1986 (2).

In order to successfully conserve this endangered species, a sound knowledge of its behaviour, biology, current population status and ecological requirements is needed. Hence further surveys and research into the speckle-chested piculet are essential (2)

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Find out more

Learn more about bird conservation:

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Authentication

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:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Arthropods
A major grouping of animals that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Epiphytes
Plants that use another plant, typically a tree, for their physical support, but which do not draw nourishment from it.
Incubated
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms, molluscs and spiders.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  3. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  4. Schulenberg, T.S., Stotz, D.F., Lane, D.F., O’Neill, J.P. and Parker III, T.A. (2007) Birds of Peru. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  5. Gill, F.B. (2007) Ornithology. W.H. Freeman, New York.
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Image credit

Perched speckle-chested piculet  
Perched speckle-chested piculet

© Dušan M. Brinkhuizen / www.avesecuador.com

Dušan M. Brinkhuizen
http://www.mindobirds.com.ec

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