Bird O'clock

Discover the Fascinating Behaviors of the Brown-Eared Woodpecker: From Foraging Tactics to Vocalization

The Brown-eared Woodpecker or Campethera caroli is a remote forest-dwelling bird species that belongs to the family of woodpeckers. These attractive and novel birds are a must-see for any wildlife enthusiast, and this article aims at providing key facts about their identification both field identification and identifying similar species, molts, and physical characteristics.


Field Identification

The Brown-eared Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker that is approximately 24cm in length with a wingspan of 35-40cm. Males weigh between 70-91g, and their females weigh between 58-75g.

The bird is sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have different physical characteristics. The males have a prominent red crown, whereas females have a lighter shade of red.

They have black and white-streaked backs, with a red patch on their cheeks and white underparts.

Similar Species

The Brown-eared Woodpecker bears resemblance to other woodpecker species, making it challenging to identify them. However, it can be easily identified by its characteristic features, such as the red crown and patch on the cheeks.

The White-backed Woodpecker is a common woodpecker that is mistaken for the Brown-eared Woodpecker as both species have conspicuous white backs. However, the White-backed Woodpecker has a white crown while the Brown-eared Woodpecker has a red patch on its cheek.


Woodpeckers have different molts, which gives them their iconic looks. Molting is the process of shedding old feathers and growing new ones.

It occurs once or twice a year in birds. Juveniles and adults alike molt their feathers.

Molting helps to optimize the bird’s physical and behavioral traits essential for survival. Adult woodpeckers have four plumage variations- basic, alternate, breeding, and juvenile, while juvenile woodpeckers have two- downy and juvenal.


In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is an exciting bird species that has a unique mix of physical characteristics making it both novel and attractive. Despite the challenges of identifying the bird in the wild, it is easily recognizable by its hallmark features such as the red crowns and patches on the cheeks.

Molting is a necessary phenomenon among birds, and the Brown-eared Woodpecker is not an exception. Therefore, it is essential to understand the different plumage variations in adult and juvenile individuals to appreciate this bird’s beauty conclusively.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker, also known as Campethera caroli, belongs to the family of woodpeckers, which are recognized for their unique behavior and physical characteristics. As with any bird species, understanding their systematics history and detecting changes in their distribution is essential for their conservation.

This article will explore in detail the historical development of C. caroli systematics, geographic variations, subspecies, and related species.

Systematics History

The Brown-eared Woodpecker was first described in 1858 by John Cassin, a renowned ornithologist, and bird artist. He named the bird Picus caroli, after the renowned British scientist Charles Lucien Bonaparte.

However, in 1929, its name changed to Campethera caroli. The Latin word campethera refers to an African woodpecker subspecies, while caroli is in honor of the bird’s original namer Charles L.


Geographic Variation

The Brown-eared Woodpecker has a wide geographical range that varies from Sierra Leone and throughout West and Central Africa to the eastern regions of the Congo Basin. In West and Central Africa, the species exhibits marked geographic variation across the range.

Populations in the savannah regions of West Africa are paler with paler wing panels, while those of the Congo Basin have brown backs.


There are three recognized subspecies of the Brown-eared Woodpecker. The Green-backed Woodpecker (Campethera cailliautii) and the Brown-eared Woodpecker (Campethera caroli) are closely related and have at some point been considered subspecies of the same bird.

However, further analysis revealed them to be different species. The three subspecies are as follows:

– Campethera caroli latifasciata – Found in Sierra Leone down to Liberia

– Campethera caroli caroli – Found in the southeastern regions of Guinea to Northwest Angola, through Congo and Western Zaire.

– Campethera caroli praeusta – Found in extreme southeast Nigeria, through the east coast of Cameroon to western central Africa.

Related Species

There are several woodpecker species that are related to the Brown-eared Woodpecker. They include the Greener Woodpecker (Campethera nivosa), Green-backed Honeyguide (Prodotiscus zambesiae), and Smoky Honeyguide (Indicator fumidhanus).

All the species have overlapping ranges, and their physical characteristics may also overlap. However, subtle differences distinguishing each species make identification possible.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historically, the Brown-eared Woodpecker was relatively widespread in the West and Central African forests, with some reports indicating that they were even common in West Africa up to the 19th Century. However, the species has experienced a significant decline in its population throughout its range due to habitat loss and destruction.

In the Congo Basin, they are listed as vulnerable due to similar threats. Increased human activities, such as logging, mining, and land conversion for farming, have all contributed to the loss of suitable habitat for the Brown-eared Woodpecker.

Additionally, pressure from agriculture, urbanization, and other human activities have resulted in their disappearance from some areas of its former range. Over the years, several conservation efforts have been launched to protect the species and its habitat.

These include creating protected areas, developing sustainable land use practices, and promoting sustainable agriculture and forest management. Research has also been critical in identifying hotspots of biodiversity and the measure that needs to be implemented to boost conservation efforts.


In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is a remarkable bird species with a storied history and complex systematics. Its geographical range, subspecies, and related species give interested individuals an extensive field of knowledge to explore.

As with all wildlife, this species faces significant threats from habitat loss and fragmentation. Thus, developing and implementing widely accepted conservation efforts will be critical to sustaining the bird population.

Safeguarding habitats, developing woodpecker-friendly land use practices, and supporting endangered species laws are just some of the steps required to ensure this bird species’ survival. The Brown-eared Woodpecker, also known as Campethera caroli, is a forest-dwelling bird species.

It is naturally restricted to forested habitats, making the maintenance and protection of these habitats critical for its survival. This article will explore in depth the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s typical habitat preferences, movements, and migratory patterns.


The Brown-eared Woodpecker is primarily found in moist forests with tall, mature trees and dense undergrowth. They are commonly seen foraging in trees for available insects, which they mash using their specialized tongue to extract.

Additionally, the bird is also seen in wooded areas near watercourses or swampy areas where insects are abundant. Similarly, they are also found in plantation forests, secondary forests, and gallery forests.

However, their occurrence in these alternative habitats is less common than in primary forests. The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s natural habitat has been detrimentally affected by human activities such as direct forest clearance, logging, and forest degradation caused by climate change.

As these activities expand, there is a marked decrease in the bird’s usable habitat, resulting in local population losses and decline.

Movements and Migration

The Brown-eared Woodpecker is not known to be migratory. It is primarily a non-migratory forest bird species that moves only for the purpose of establishing new territories or foraging.

Due to the decrease in natural habitats, however, many populations have been severely restricted, leading to high local population turnovers. The movement patterns of the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s population are primarily driven by the need to maintain their breeding territory.

They will move across their range in search of suitable nest sites and feeding opportunities. Males, especially, are known to make long-distance flights to identify good breeding sites and establish territories.

Once they’ve found a suitable site, they attract a female mate for reproductive purposes. The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s bimodal flight pattern is a distinguishing feature of their flying style.

They will fly in undulating patterns, often with short glides followed by a series of several fast flaps, avoiding obstacles in their way. Their flying style is a critical requirement for locating potential nesting sites and identifying insect-rich habitats.

The birds also use their calls and drumming to communicate with other Brown-eared Woodpeckers regarding the presence of an appropriate mating site.


In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is a remarkable bird species that is naturally found in the forested habitats of West and Central Africa. Their movement and migratory patterns are primarily driven by the need to maintain their breeding territory and locate appropriate feeding opportunities.

Globally, the Brown-eared Woodpecker population faces significant threats to its natural habitat from direct forest clearance, logging, and habitat degradation facilitated by climatic changes. Safeguarding habitats, developing woodpecker-compatible agricultural, silvicultural, and forestry practices, and supporting species conservation laws are critical measures needed to ensure the survival of this fascinating bird species.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker, also known as Campethera caroli, is a unique bird species that is well adapted to forested areas. They have a diverse range of behaviors and physical characteristics that make them fascinating to observe.

This article will examine the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s diet and foraging behaviors, metabolic and temperature regulation, vocalization, and sound behaviors.

Diet and Foraging

The Brown-eared Woodpecker is an insectivorous bird species that typically forages in the bark and crevices of trees looking for insects. They are capable of detecting faint insect movements under the bark and crevices of trees with their acute hearing.

Once their prey is located, they use their powerful, sharp bill to drill and pry into the wood to access and extract the insects. The birds’ long, bristled tongue is capable of expanding three times the length of their bill length, and it is coated with copious amounts of sticky saliva that traps insects.

Their foraging behaviors are versatile. They can move along tree trunks, limbs, and foliage headfirst, unlike many other bird species, while also clinging onto tree barks and using their stiff tail feathers as an anchor.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s metabolic rate is almost twice that of other bird species of similar sizes due to their energetic foraging behaviors. Consequently, the birds need to maintain their internal body temperature to avoid overheating.

They do this by regulating their blood flow to the head, where feathers are expelled to allow heat to be lost. This adaptation ensures that the brain does not overheat and maintains optimal functioning and physical activity.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

The Brown-eared Woodpecker has a unique drumming behavior that acts as both a territorial display and a source of communication with other members within a population. They have a drumming style that is exceptionally fast, as they can drum at a rate of up to ten beats per second.

Their drumming is also incredibly loud and lasting several minutes, capable of being heard hundreds of meters away. The Brown-eared Woodpecker also has distinctive calls that are used for communication purposes.

These calls are primarily used in males to attract female mates to establish territories. They have a distinctive harsh mellow pitch that can be heard over long distances within the forests, establishing the presence of a particular bird population.


The Brown-eared Woodpecker has two primary vocalizations, much like the other woodpecker species. It has a “wick” or “wit” call that is given frequently throughout the day.

It is used for communication with other members of the population and as an alarm call to signal the presence of a predator. The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s second vocalization is drumming, a unique aspect of their vocal behavior.

Drumming is a crucial aspect of woodpeckers’ behavior, and they execute this behavior by using their bills to beat against tree trunks. The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s drumming style is exceptionally fast, and their drumming is also incredibly loud and lasting several minutes, capable of being heard over long distances.


In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is a unique bird species capable of adapting to the forest’s challenges, predation, and foraging behaviors. They have a diverse range of features, such as their unique feeding style, energy-foraging behaviors, and temperature regulation, that make them an exciting bird species to study and observe.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker’s vocal behavior, such as their drumming and vocalization, is an essential aspect of their territorial and communication behaviors. Understanding the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s behaviors and the regulatory mechanisms that enable them to survive is critical to their preservation in the face of ongoing deforestation, habitat degradation, and climate change pressure.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker (Campethera caroli) is a bird species found primarily in forested habitats, exhibiting a variety of unique behaviors. This article will describe the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s behavioral patterns, which include their locomotion styles, self-maintenance behaviors, agonistic behaviors, sexual behaviors, breeding patterns, population demography, and extinction risks.



Brown-eared Woodpeckers spend most of their time moving along tree trunks, branches, and foliage headfirst, an adaptation that is not common in most bird species. When they move, they cling onto barks and use their stiff tail feathers to anchor themselves onto tree barks.

They move with a characteristic sharp and quick motion, and they use this movement tactic to avoid detection by other birds or predators.


Brown-eared Woodpeckers possess specialized physical adaptation, which allows them to maintain themselves in a forested habitat. They use their sharp bills to drill holes in trees to create sleeping sites, and they regularly maintain these holes repairing and renovating them where necessary to ensure their survival.

Agonistic Behavior

Brown-eared Woodpeckers are naturally territorial, and they are frequently involved in aggressive interactions with other members of their species. Their aggressiveness is a result of their competition for limited resources and habitat area within their population range.

These aggressive interactions often escalate into physical conflicts, where the competing individuals will peck at each other and engage in other physical clashes.

Sexual Behavior

Sexual behavior is essential to the Brown-eared Woodpecker mating pattern. Once the males establish a territory, they use their drumming behaviors to attract females and establish reproductive territories.

They also use their drumming to announce their presence and warning off potential competing males from their territory.


Brown-eared Woodpeckers breeding patterns vary depending on the location and the time of the year. For instance, in Guinea, the breeding season lasts from July to December, while in Cameroon, the breeding season runs from April to May.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker breed by constructing an underground tunnel that culminates in a chamber in the tree. Here, the female lays eggs, typically two to three per clutch.

Demography and Populations

Brown-eared Woodpeckers have an extensive range across West and Central Africa, but potential threats continue to impact their populations, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Human land use changes, such as logging and agricultural land conversion, have led to population declines, habitat loss, and increased fragmentation, leading to localized losses of genetic variation.

The Brown-eared Woodpecker is currently not included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s comprehensive list of threatened species. However, the species has experienced a significant decline in its population due to habitat loss and degradation in specific regions.

Globally, there is a need for rapid and significant intervention to prevent the species’s continuing decline.


In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is an exciting bird species capable of adapting to the challenges of forest habitats. Their behaviors such as locomotion, self-maintenance, sexuality, breeding, and demography shape their adaptation mechanisms and interaction with their surroundings.

However, continued habitat loss and degradation pose significant threats to their populations across their range, jeopardizing the species’ future survival. Thus, conservation efforts should prioritize developing and implementing widely accepted conservation efforts to safeguard the birds’ natural habitat, identifying areas of high conservation value, and promoting species conservation laws.

In conclusion, the Brown-eared Woodpecker is an incredible bird species that exhibit unique and notable adaptations that enable them to navigate their forested habitat. However, they face numerous challenges globally, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, leading to population declines.

To ensure the survival of this species, continued conservation efforts are required, including sustainable land use practices, habitat restoration, and implementing endangered species laws. Based on this article, we hope that the readers have gained more insight into the Brown-eared Woodpecker’s behavioral patterns, habitat, diets, and foraging behavior, vocalization, breeding, populations, and survival status.

This knowledge is vital

Popular Posts