The ground woodpecker (Geocolaptes olivaceus) is one of only three ground-dwelling woodpeckers in the world (the others are the Andean and Campo flickers). It is the largest woodpecker in the region, reaching 30 cm in length. It usually goes about in pairs or small parties. It often peers over or around rocks at intruders.

Habitat and Distribution

It inhabits rather barren, steep, boulder-strewn slopes in relatively cool hilly and mountainous areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and has yet to be recorded outside of Southern Africa.


Its diet consists mainly of ants with their larvae, pupae and eggs. These are extracted from dead wood or between rocks, using its long, sticky tongue.


It breeds in spring and early summer (August to November), and the nest is in a tunnel excavated by the bird itself in the vertical bank of a stream or watercourse. Usually 3 glossy white eggs are laid in a chamber at the end of the tunnel.

Calls and Songs

It is best located by its loud, raucous 2-note call (chik-ree, chik-ree) with head-swinging.