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Species Guide

Knysna Woodpecker

Campethera notata

The Knysna woodpecker, a member of the Picidae family, is a bird that captivates with its distinctive plumage. The underparts of this species are a canvas of black spots stretching from chin to vent, creating a striking contrast against its yellowish-white base. The male boasts an olive-green back adorned with subtle bars and pale olive-yellow diamond-shaped spots, while the female is similar but with a black head speckled with white and a scarlet occiput.

Identification Tips

To identify the Knysna woodpecker, look for its gray-black head with scarlet-tipped feathers and a fully scarlet occipital crest. The bird's lores are yellowish with minute black spots, and its ear-coverts are whitish, streaked with black. The cheeks are a vibrant scarlet, and the sides of the face and neck are yellowish white, heavily mottled with black. The bird's eyes are a hazel hue, and it measures approximately 22 cm in length.


This woodpecker favors the subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, moist savannas, and subtropical or tropical moist shrublands of South Africa.


Endemic to South Africa, the Knysna woodpecker is sparsely distributed along the coastal lowlands, reaching into southern KwaZulu-Natal and westward to near Bredasdorp in the Western Cape.


The Knysna woodpecker is an active forager, pecking and probing through various levels of the tree canopy in search of its prey.

Feeding and Foraging

Its diet primarily consists of ants, ant larvae, wood-boring beetles, termites, and their eggs and pupae, which it diligently seeks out in the bark and branches of trees.


Breeding season occurs from August to November, with a peak in October. The woodpecker nests in excavated holes within dead tree trunks or branches, laying clutches of 2-4 eggs. Incubation lasts 13-21 days, followed by a fledgling period of 4-6 days.

Conservation Status and Threats

The Knysna woodpecker is currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss and alteration pose significant threats, with predictions of affecting over 90% of the population. Conservation efforts are in place, including surveys and habitat protection, to prevent further decline.

Similar Species

This woodpecker is part of a species complex that includes the golden-tailed and Mombasa woodpeckers, which may share some visual similarities.

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Knysna Woodpeckers on Birda


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