Tag Archives: Ground Woodpecker

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.