Backyard Birds

Black-rumped Flameback Woodpeckers aka Lesser Golden-backed Woodpeckers

The Black-rumped Flameback or Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense) is a woodpecker found widely distributed in South Asia.

It is one of the few woodpeckers that are seen in urban areas, it has a characteristic rattling-whinnying call and an undulating flight. It is the only golden-backed woodpecker with a black throat and black rump.

Distribution / Habitat

The Black-rumped Flameback is a widespread and common resident breeder in much of South Asia.

It is found mainly on the plains going up to an elevation of about 1200m in Pakistan, India south of the Himalayas and east till the western Assam valley and Meghalaya, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

It is associated with open forest and cultivation. They are often seen in urban areas with wooded avenues. It is somewhat rare in the Kutch and desert region of Rajasthan.

Member of the Picidae Family:  WoodpeckersSapsuckersFlickers

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Black-rumped Flameback


The Black-rumped Flameback is a large species at 26–29 cm in length.

It has a typical woodpecker shape, and the golden yellow wing coverts are distinctive. The rump is black. The underparts are white with dark chevron markings. The black throat finely marked with white immediately separates it from other golden backed woodpeckers in the Indian region. The head is whitish with a black nape and throat, and there is a greyish eye patch.

Like other woodpeckers, this species has a straight pointed bill, a stiff tail to provide support against tree trunks, and zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backward. The long tongue can be darted forward to capture insects.

The adult male Black-rumped Flameback has a red crown and crest.

Females have a black forecrown spotted with white, with red only on the rear crest.

Young birds are like the female, but duller.

Leucistic birds have been recorded. Two specimens of male birds from the northern Western Ghats have been noted to have red-tipped feathers on the malar region almost forming a malar stripe. A female specimen from Lucknow has been noted to have grown an abnormal downcurved hoopoe-like bill.

Similar Species: Unlike Greater Flameback, Chrysocolaptes lucidus, it has no dark moustache stripes. The Greater Flameback has a red rump.

Black-rumped Flameback


The race in the arid northwestern India and Pakistan, dilutum, has pale yellow upperparts, a long crest and whiter underparts than the nominate race of the Gangetic plains. The upperparts have less spots. They prefer to breed in old gnarled tamarisks, Acacia and Dalbergia trunks.

The nominate populations is found across India in the low elevations up to about 1000m.

Southern Peninsular form puncticolle has the throat black with small triangular white spots and the upper parts are a bright golden-yellow. The subspecies found in the Western Ghats is sometimes separated as tehminae (named after the wife of Salim Ali) and is more olive above, has fine spots on the black throat and the wing-covert spots are not distinct.

The southern Sri Lankan subspecies D. b. psarodes has a crimson back and all the dark markings are blacker and more extensive. It hybridizes with the northern Sri Lankan race jaffnense which has a shorter beak.

The Sri Lankan race psarodes is sometimes considered a distinct species although it is said to intergrade with jaffnense near Puttalam, Kekirawa and Trincomalee.

Diet / Feeding

This species is normally seen in pairs or small parties and sometimes joins mixed-species foraging flocks.

They forage from the ground to the canopy. They feed on insects mainly beetle larvae from under the bark, visit termite mounds and sometimes feed on nectar. As they make hopping movements around branches, they often conceal themselves from potential predators.

They adapt well in human-modified habitats making use of artificial constructions fallen fruits and even food scraps.

Black-rumped Flameback or Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense)


The breeding season varies with weather and is between February and July.

They frequently drum during the breeding season. The nest hole is usually excavated by the birds and has a horizontal entrance and descends into a cavity. Sometimes birds may usurp the nest holes of other birds. Nests have also been noted in mud embankments.

The eggs are laid inside the unlined cavity. The normal clutch is three and the eggs are elongate and glossy white. The eggs hatch after about 11 days of incubation. The chicks leave the nest after about 20 days.

Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker

In culture

The Sri Lankan these woodpeckers go by the generic name of kæralaa in Sinhala. In some parts of the island, it is also called kottoruwa although it more often refers to barbets. This bird appears in a 4.50 rupee Sri Lankan postal stamp. It also appears in a 3.75 Taka postal stamp from Bangladesh.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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