The Enchanting Heart-Spotted Woodpecker: A Forest Gem in India


The Heart-spotted Woodpecker is not just another bird; it’s a small, uniquely shaped masterpiece of nature. Primarily dressed in an elegant blend of black and buff shades, this intriguing bird comes adorned with large heart-shaped black spots on its white shoulders. The woodpecker’s distinct tuft of lipid-rich feathers on its back adds another layer to its captivating allure. These feathers possess a fascinating, albeit still not well-understood, property—they stick together and sometimes impart a buff hue to the rump feathers. Native to the lush, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests of India and other parts of Southeast Asia, the Heart-spotted Woodpecker is a wonder for every bird lover who is keen on delving deep into the vibrant birdlife in India’s natural sanctuaries.

Table: Quick Facts about the Heart-Spotted Woodpecker

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameHeart-Spotted Woodpecker
2Scientific nameHemicircus canente
3ColourBlack and buff with heart-shaped black spots
4Average length15-18 cm
5Average height18-22 cm (upside down)
6Type of birdForest
7Found in India in statesHimalayan forests, Western Ghats, and forests of central India
8HabitatSubtropical or tropical moist lowland forests
9IUCN StatusData Deficient

Features of the Bird


The Heart-spotted Woodpecker has a small yet unique stature, usually ranging from 15 to 18 cm in length. Its build is unlike that of most woodpeckers—its body is short and appears almost stout, yet perfectly designed for its habitat and lifestyle.


When measured vertically upside down, the bird stands an average height of 18 to 22 cm. Unlike other birds that have elongated structures, this woodpecker seems designed to navigate the tangled, dense forests it calls home.

Running Speed

When it comes to running speed, it’s essential to remember that woodpeckers aren’t known for their running abilities; they are more agile in flight. This bird has a sharp, bounding flight pattern that allows it to move swiftly between trees while appearing somewhat head-heavy due to its unique shape.


Its plumage is predominantly a mix of black and buff. The woodpecker’s name comes from its charming heart-shaped black spots against a backdrop of white shoulders, setting it apart in the avian world.

Other Features

Special tuft feathers that are lipid-rich add another dimension to this bird’s complex character. These feathers, often referred to as “fat quills,” sometimes make the rump feathers appear buff. They are said to have a pleasant scent, although the functional significance of this is not yet fully understood.

Habitat and Food of the Bird

  1. Habitat: The Heart-spotted Woodpecker resides mainly in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. Within India, it’s commonly found in the Himalayan forests, the Western Ghats, and central Indian forests.
  1. Food: Primarily insectivorous, it feeds mostly on insects hidden under the bark of trees. Interestingly, it has been observed pecking pods of Cassia fistula to extract insect larvae.
  1. Foraging: The bird typically forages in pairs and occasionally joins mixed-species flocks. Its foraging behavior is quite distinct, focusing on thin branches.
  1. Distribution: Its distribution in India ranges from the Himalayas to the Western Ghats and central Indian forests. It’s also found in Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
  1. Behaviour and Ecology: The bird is not an extensive flier and prefers to stay within its habitat. It has a sharp, distinctive call and is rarely seen drumming outside the breeding season.

Nesting and Nurturing

The Heart-spotted Woodpecker usually nests in dead tree branches. The nest has a narrow opening of about 3 to 4 cm in diameter, extending obliquely into a chamber. The female lays 2 or 3 unmarked white eggs. Notably, the male incubates the eggs and takes care of the young ones, which can run as soon as they are hatched.


Little is known about the specific threats facing this species. However, habitat loss due to deforestation and human activities poses a risk to its survival. This makes conservation areas and bird sanctuaries all the more critical for its protection.

IUCN Status and Conservation

The Heart-spotted Woodpecker is currently listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List. This indicates a lack of sufficient data to make an accurate assessment of its global status, thereby making it a subject for further study and conservation efforts.


The Heart-spotted Woodpecker, a unique bird species with a rich set of features, is a wonder in India’s biodiversity. It adds a fascinating layer to the country’s vibrant birdlife sanctuary and provides ample opportunities for bird image name research and bird picture photography. If you’re a bird lover looking to explore this amazing creature, there’s no better place than a bird sanctuary in India.

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