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Everyone likes woodpeckers. How can you not like a bird that entertains with head-banging antics and maniacal laughter? Costa Rica has her fair share of these star birds. The zebra-backed Hoffmann’s visits gardens in San Jose, the Lineated laughs its way through edge habitats from the lowlands to middle elevations, and woodpeckers that visit fruit feeders remind us that we are certainly situated in the tropics.

Hoffmann's Woodpecker.

A Golden-naped Woodpecker from the Troppenstation, la Gamba, Costa Rica.

If you bird in the northern Caribbean lowlands, it’s possible to see 7 species in a day, including the biggest of the bunch; the Pale-billed Woodpecker.

Pale-billed Woodpecker.

Since it’s a Campephilus, and does indeed give that infamous double knock, it’s the closest thing we have to an Ivorybill. Although its dimensions fall far short of the Lord God Bird, its pale bill and longish neck are reminiscent of the true Ivorybills.

Pale bill- check. Longish Giraffey neck- check.

Unlike the massive pair of woodpeckers of lost primeval forests, the Pale-billed is fairly common and regularly found in rainforest, tropical dry forest, and semi-open woodlands in Costa Rica. As long as enough woods and big trees are around, Pale-billeds occur and they are of course always fun to watch. Recently, I was entertained by one that spent an hour foraging for grubs on a big, dead tree.

Looking for grubs.

Although these woodpeckers can be seen at any height in the forest, this one was foraging two meters above the ground. It carefully pecked away dead bark to eat some sort of grub and worked a small area on the tree for about an hour.

Finding a grub.

It never gave a double knock nor called while foraging and didn’t seem bothered by my presence. Who needs reality shows when you can watch a Pale-billed Woodpecker in action?

Pale-billed Woodpecker.

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One Response to “Pale-billed Woodpecker Action in Costa Rica”

  1. Wonderful looking bird and great photos. Extraordinary that it stayed around the same tree for an hour! I think the closest we would get to that for a forest bird here in south eastern Australia is a Yellow tailed Black-cockatoo tearing bark from Acacias in search of wood boring grubs, or Glossy Black-cockatoo feeding on the fruits of Casuarina.

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