Ground Woodpecker

Geocolaptes olivaceus

Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is one of the best places in the country to go searching for the Ground Woodpecker, a bird that occupies open, rocky hillsides in arid scrubland, fynbos and grasslands and occurs only in upland parts of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.

With a length of 30cm and a weight up to 130g, this is the largest woodpecker in South Africa. They can usually be found in pairs or small family groups, and unlike other, more well-known, woodpeckers search for food (mostly ants) on the ground and among rocks rather than in trees. They are always to be found near water, and usually very conspicuous thanks to their load calls and habit of using high vantage points to watch for danger. Most breeding takes place in early spring, when 3 eggs are laid in nesting chambers at the end of tunnels excavated in vertical soil banks. Some of these tunnels are occupied year-round and not only during the nesting season.

Ground Woodpeckers are common over most of their range and not currently considered to be under any threat to their survival, as their preferred habitat is mostly inaccessible and largely unsuited to human habitation or agriculture.


19 thoughts on “Ground Woodpecker

  1. Jude

    When I first read the title of this post my first thought was of ground up woodpecker – as per when you buy ground beef or pork! I dissolved into laughter at the thought and at the direction my mind had taken, and the idea of asking for a pound of ground woodpecker! Seriously, it is a lovely looking bird, much like our green woodpecker here, which spends all its feeding time on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author


      Luckily South African cuisine is far more bland than that, Jude!

      I wonder then if the green woodpecker you mention might be one of the other two largely terrestrial woodpecker species in the world – will have to go check that out.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Most certainly a cool creature, Kathy! Their form fits the woodpecker pattern, but the habits not so much. Apparently one of only three non-arboreal woodpeckers on the planet!


  2. Ladybuggz

    Our Woodpeckers hammer on any metal they can find (usually on your house early in the morning) or light fixtures…the louder they are the more mates they attract! Had one guy here a couple weeks ago…I’ll post his picture! Similar in feather design! 😉

    Liked by 1 person


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