Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Indian Pygmy Woodpecker (Picoides nanus)


French: Pic à calotte brune German: Indienspecht Spanish: Pico crestipardo
Other common names: Brown-capped Woodpecker, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker

Picus nanus


, 1832,



This species, along with P. temminckii, P. kizuki, P. maculatus, P. ramsayi, P. canicapillus and P. moluccensis, was previously placed in Dendrocopos, but molecular studies indicate that they all form a separate clade of very small species, evidently sister to the P. tridactylus clade#R#R; all seven have been combined in Yungipicus by some authors. Present species has until recently been treated as conspecific with P. moluccensis, but separated by recent authors#R on “several characters”, enumerated here as: pale vs dark iris (3); red eyering (2); lack of dark malar stripe (3); and less heavy streaking below (ns[1]). Sri Lankan form gymnopthalmos distinctive, both in plumage and in voice#R, and merits further study. Birds in E peninsular India described as race hardwickii, but considered to represent clinal variation. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. n. nanus (Vigors, 1832) – Indian Pygmy Woodpecker – N & peninsular India (except SW) and S Nepal E to Bihar#R.
  • P. n. cinereigula (Malherbe, 1849) – SW India in Kerala and W Tamil Nadu.
  • P. n. gymnopthalmos (Blyth, 1849) – Sri Lanka Pygmy Woodpecker – Sri Lanka.
  • Descriptive notes

    13 cm; 13–17 g. Male nominate race has forehead to hindneck chocolate-brown, sometimes tinged yellowish, small red patch at side of hindcrown, white band from above eye... read more


    Rapid, rather weak trilled rattle on rising scale, increasing in volume before ending abruptly,... read more


    Light deciduous forest, secondary forest, parks with scattered trees, trees near cultivation; in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet comprises small invertebrates and their larvae, mainly ants (Formicidae), termites (Isoptera) and beetles (Coleoptera); also fruits... read more


    Season Feb–May in most of range, but Jan–Mar in W India and, in Sri Lanka, mainly Feb–Jul but also (when conditions favourable) Oct–Dec.... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common to fairly common in much of Indian Subcontinent. Status in Bangladesh uncertain; has been considered probably a rare... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Indian Pygmy Woodpecker (Picoides nanus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 13 December 2019).