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The Picidæ or Woodpecker Family

Woodpeckers abound in the well-wooded Himalayas.

The woodpecker most commonly seen in the western hill stations is the brown-fronted pied species (Dendrocopus auriceps). This is a black bird, spotted and barred with white: some might call it a white bird, heavily spotted and barred with black. The forehead is amber brown. That is the distinguishing feature of this species. The cock has a red-and-gold crest, which the hen lacks. Both sexes rejoice in a crimson patch under the tail--a feature common to all species of pied woodpecker. Dendrocopus auriceps nests earlier in the year than do most hill-birds, so that by the time the majority of the European visitors arrive in the hills, the young woodpeckers have left their nest, which is a hole excavated by the parents in a tree, a rhododendron by preference.

Two other species of pied woodpecker are common in the hills--the rufous-bellied (Hypopicus hypererythrus) and the Western Himalayan species (Dendrocopus himalayensis). The former is particularly abundant at Murree. These two species are distinguished from the brown-fronted pied woodpecker by having no brown on the forehead. The rufous abdomen serves to differentiate the rufous-bellied from the Western Himalayan species. The above woodpeckers are not much larger than mynas.

There remains yet another common species--the West Himalayan scaly-bellied green woodpecker (Gecinus squamatus). The English name of this bird is very cumbrous. There is no help for this. Numerous adjectives and adjectival adjuncts are necessary to each species to distinguish it from each of the host of other woodpeckers. This particular species is larger than a crow and is recognisable by its green colour. It might be possible to condense an accurate description of the plumage of this bird into half a column of print. I will, however, refrain. There is a limit to the patience of even the Anglo-Indian.