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The Picidæ or Woodpecker Family

Woodpeckers are birds that feed exclusively on insects, which they pick off the trunks of trees. They move about over the bark with great address. Whether progressing upwards, downwards, or sideways, the head is always pointed upwards.

For some reason or other there is a paucity of woodpeckers on the Nilgiris. The Indian Empire can boast of no fewer than fifty-four species; of these only six patronise the Nilgiris, and but two appear to ascend higher than 5000 feet. The only woodpecker that I have noticed in the vicinity of Coonoor is Tickell's golden-backed woodpecker (Chrysocolaptes gutticristatus). I apologise for the name; fortunately the bird never has to sign it in full. This woodpecker is a magnificent bird, over a foot in length, being 1½ inch longer than the golden-backed species found in Madras itself. The cock has a crimson crest, the sides of the head and neck and the under parts are white, relieved by black streaks that run longitudinally. The back and wings appear golden olive in the shade, and when the sun shines on them they become a beautiful coppery red. The lower part of the back is crimson. The tail is black. The hen differs from the cock in having the crest black. When these birds fly, their wings make much noise. The species utters a high-pitched but somewhat faint screaming note.