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A photo of a Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense), male
Common Flameback, Male

Common Flameback

Dinopium javanense

The Common Flameback, or Common Goldenback (Dinopium javanense), is a small, vibrant woodpecker, measuring 28-30 cm in length. This three-toed member of the Picidae family exhibits sexual dimorphism in crest coloration, with males sporting a bright red crest and females a black crest with white streaks. Both sexes have a white supercilium, cheek stripe, and throat, set against a backdrop of black stripes, and a spotted black and white underside.

Identification Tips

To identify the Common Flameback, look for its smaller bill and black nape, which distinguish it from similar golden-backed woodpeckers like the Greater Flameback. Its red rump and white throat set it apart from the Black-rumped Flameback. The bird's loud, high-pitched "kow-kowp" rattle is a key auditory identifier.

Habitat

These birds prefer moist open forests, scrubs, and mangroves, avoiding urban areas due to their shy and secretive nature. They can be found from sea level up to altitudes of 1700m, particularly in pine forests of India.

Distribution

The Common Flameback's range extends across South and Southeast Asia, from the Western Ghats in India to the Indochinese peninsula and several Greater Sunda Islands.

Behaviour

The Common Flameback is a quiet species, engaging in little drumming behavior. It exhibits a unique foraging behavior, gleaning and probing rather than pecking, and is known to hop quickly and effectively on trees. The sexes forage separately but maintain contact, displaying "peeking" behavior and crest raising when in proximity.

Song & Calls

This woodpecker has a repertoire of calls, including the "wicka," "kow," "kowp," and "rattle" calls. The "kowp" is often heard during flight and is likely an alarm call, while the "rattle" call follows the "kowp" and varies in length.

Breeding

Breeding behaviors are not well-documented, but some observations suggest a lack of elaborate displays, with the male simply raising his crest during copulation. Nesting occurs in holes within fruit trees or coconut palms, with clutch sizes of 2 or 3 eggs.

Similar Species

The Himalayan Flameback is nearly identical in appearance but can be distinguished by its call. The Greater Flameback has a larger bill and lacks the black nape of the Common Flameback.

Diet and Feeding

The Common Flameback is an insectivore, primarily feeding on ants. It employs a gleaning and probing method to forage, which is silent compared to the typical woodpecker drumming. It may also hawk slow-flying insects and glean other invertebrates from tree surfaces.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Common Flameback as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats to its survival at this time.

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