Thai National Parks

Species of Thailand

White-bellied woodpecker

Dryocopus javensis

Thomas Horsfield, 1821

In Thai: นกหัวขวานใหญ่สีดำ

The white-bellied woodpecker or great black woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis) is found in evergreen forests of tropical Asia, including the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It has 14 subspecies, part of a complex including the Andaman woodpecker (Dryocopus hodgei) (earlier treated as a subspecies). Many island forms are endangered, some are extinct. Populations differ in the distribution and extent of white. They are among the largest of the Asiatic woodpeckers and nest in large dead trees, often beside rivers. Their drums and calls are louder than those of the smaller woodpeckers.


This species is one of the largest living species of woodpecker. Adults range in size from 40 to 48 cm and are second in size only to the great slaty woodpecker among Asian woodpecker species. The species is considered closely related to the more northern black woodpecker and the North American pileated woodpecker and is similar in size to these species. Body mass can vary from 197 to 350 g. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 20.5 to 25.2 cm, the tail is 14.3 to 18.9 cm, the bill is 4.6 to 6 cm and the tarsus is 3.2 to 4.3 cm.

The subspecies hodgsonii has whitish underwing coverts and a white rump. The face lacks white, but juveniles of the nominate race can have white streaks on the throat. Differences from the other Southeast Asian subspecies in the vocalizations and morphology of this species are suggested to be large enough to raise this to full species status. Solitary adults may spend an hour foraging at a suitable tree. The subspecies hodgsonii of India breeds from January to May, mainly in large dead trees, often using the same tree year after year. The normal clutch is usually of two eggs. They feed mainly on insects such as ants or grubs obtained mainly from under bark, but sometimes take fruit. Although shy, they can nest close to well-used tracks and human disturbed areas. They have a range of calls from a short, sharp "kuk" to more intoned "kyuk", "kew", "kee-yow" calls. The longer calls are given prior to flying off. They roost within holes.


Fourteen subspecies have been described:

  • D. j. javensis (Horsfield, 1821) (southern Thailand to Borneo)
  • D. j. philippinensis (Steere, 1890) (the Philippines; more often subsumed into the nominate subspecies)
  • D. j. cebuensis Kennedy, 1987 (Cebu Island)
  • D. j. confusus (Stresemann, 1913) (Luzon; includes esthloterus (Parkes, 1971))
  • D. j. feddeni (Blyth, 1863) (Thailand, Laos and Burma)
  • D. j. forresti Rothschild, 1922 (northern Myanmar and Sichuan, China)
  • D. j. hargitti (Sharpe, 1884) (Palawan)
  • D. j. hodgsonii (Jerdon, 1840) (mainly the Western Ghats of India, but also known from central India and the Eastern Ghats)
  • D. j. mindorensis (Steere, 1890) (Mindoro)
  • D. j. multilunatus (McGregor, 1907) (Basilan, Dinagat, Mindanao)
  • D. j. parvus (Richmond, 1902) (Simeulue Island)
  • D. j. pectoralis (Tweeddale, 1878) (Samar, Bohol and other islands)
  • D. j. richardsi (Tristram, 1879) (Tristram's woodpecker; found only in North Korea, extinct in South Korea and Tsushima, Japan)
  • D. j. suluensis (W. Blasius, 1890) (Sulu)

The Andaman woodpecker (Dryocopus hodgei) was treated as a subspecies in the past. The species has in the past been placed in the genus Thriponax and Macropicus.

Behaviour and ecology

This large black woodpecker is usually seen singly or as a pair, which may sometimes be accompanied by a third bird. They have a dipping in which the loud single note, a laugh-like chiank call, is produced. They also produce loud drumming, especially in the breeding season. The breeding season is mainly January to March. The nest is built in a large dead tree, often in open forest. Two white eggs are the usual clutch. In Bastar in central India, the squabs are sought after by tribals, resulting in the rarity of these birds there.

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Category / Seasonal Status

BCST Category: Recorded in an apparently wild state within the last 50 years

BCST Seasonal status: Resident or presumed resident

Scientific classification

Dryocopus javensis

Common names

  • Thai: นกหัวขวานใหญ่สีดำ


  • Dryocopus javensis cebuensis, Robert S. Kennedy, 1987

    Range: Cebu Island

  • Dryocopus javensis confusus, Erwin Stresemann, 1913

    Range: Luzon, includes D. j. esthloterus (Kenneth Carroll Parkes, 1971)

  • Dryocopus javensis feddeni, Edward Blyth, 1863

    Range: Thailand, Laos and Burma

  • Dryocopus javensis forresti, Lionel Walter Rothschild, 1922

    Range: Northern Myanmar and Sichuan, China

  • Dryocopus javensis hargitti, Richard Bowdler Sharpe, 1884

    Range: Palawan

  • Dryocopus javensis hodgsonii, Thomas Caverhill Jerdon, 1840

    Range: Found mainly in the Western Ghats of India but also known from central India and the Eastern Ghats.

  • Dryocopus javensis javensis, Thomas Horsfield, 1821

    Range: Southern Thailand to Borneo

  • Dryocopus javensis mindorensis, Joseph Beal Steere, 1890

    Range: Mindoro

  • Dryocopus javensis multilunatus, Ernest Alexander McGregor, 1907

    Range: Basilan, Dinagat, Mindanao

  • Dryocopus javensis parvus, Charles Wallace Richmond, 1902

    Range: Simeulue Island

  • Dryocopus javensis pectoralis, Arthur Hay, A.K.A. Viscount Walden, 1878

    Range: Samar, Bohol and other islands

  • Dryocopus javensis philippinensis, Joseph Beal Steere, 1890

    Range: More often subsumed into the nominate

  • Dryocopus javensis richardsi, Henry Baker Tristram, 1879

    Range: Tristram's woodpecker found in Korea, extinct on Tsushima

  • Dryocopus javensis suluensis, Wilhelm August Heinrich Blasius, 1890

    Range: Sulu

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Critically Endangered (IUCN3.1)

Critically Endangered (ONEP)

- CR (javensis)/NT (feddeni) -

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Near Threatened (BCST)


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White-bellied woodpecker

Range Map

Distribution map of White-bellied woodpecker, Dryocopus javensis in Thailand
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Doi Suthep - Pui National Park
  • Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Mae Ping National Park
  • Mae Wong National Park
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Nam Nao National Park
  • Pa Sang District, Lamphun
  • Pai District, Mae Hong Son
  • Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Salawin National Park
  • Thap Lan National Park
  • Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary
Range map of Dryocopus javensis in Thailand