Birdwatching can be a fascinating pastime in Costa Rica and the Costa Rica Woodpecker is no exception
While most people think of Costa Rica’s wildlife as exotic, there are some familiar faces that are just as beautiful and charming as some of the country’s more showy inhabitants. One such creature is the lineated woodpecker.
Locally known as the “carpintero,” which literally translates to carpenter, this woodpecker easy to spot and easy to love. With its shock of bright red head plumage, black and white body, and signature white lines, the bird will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen its close relative, the pileated woodpecker, pecking away at trees in the United States.
As far as woodpeckers go, the carpintero is one of the largest, measuring 12 to 14 inches in length and weighing between 6 and 8 ounces. Its habitat ranges from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and, while it prefers open areas like pastures and forest edges, it also lives in dry, humid and coastal forests. This makes it easy to find in many different places across Costa Rica.
The carpintero mainly eats insects, including ants, termites, spiders, grubs and beetle larvae. However, it also indulges in nuts, seeds, fruits and berries. The carpintero does its characteristic to get to the tastiest treats. But it also performs its drum song to attract the best mates, and to burrow a home or a nest for itself.
Carpinteros are a model of marital cooperation: they mate in breeding pairs, and stay together throughout the breeding season. They often use specific pecking sounds to communicate. Both males and females help to make the nests, which are built in cavities of dead trees. Breeding takes place during spring months, and both parents help care for the chicks. During the day, females feed and care for the young, while males guard the nest. At night, Dad takes his turn caring for the chicks.
Carpinteros are well-known and well-loved for several reasons, the most obvious being their bright red, “punk-rock” hairdos and their attractive black markings. But avid birdwatchers also delight in their vocalizations, which sound like crazy laughter, and their habit of not spreading their wings to fly until they have very nearly hit the ground.
Lineated woodpeckers often travel in groups, and are abundant in Costa Rica. While they are more abundant in lowlands, carpinteros are plentiful and can be seen in nearly every Costa Rican national park and nature reserve.