Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable as it has suffered a rapid population decline over the past 20 years (three generations) due to loss of primary forest cover throughout much of its range. However the true rate of decline may be greater than currently estimated, and evidence of such declines would result in the species being uplisted in the future.

Population justification
Based on remote sensing and population density data, the global population has been estimated to number 26,000-550,000 individuals. This figure is revised from 260,000-550,000 individuals, as in many countries extrapolation from forest cover exceeds population numbers that appear reasonable based on anecdotal information about the abundance of the species, as large tracts which are classified as forest in remote sensing data are not occupied by the species (e.g. heath forest). Estimated densities for the species in Himalayan foothill forests of northwest India range between 0.5 per km2 and 1.0 per km2 (see Kumar & Shahabuddin 2012).

Trend justification
The species is estimated to have declined by 40-75% over the last 3 generations, using different calculated generation lengths and declines in forest cover. However, given that there is uncertainty in extrapolating population density trends over such a large range, and the data on forest cover trends used was crude, a decline of 30-49% over the past 20 years (3 generations) seems appropriate (Lammertink et al. 2009).

Distribution and population

Mulleripicus pulverulentus is found in South-East Asia, from northern India through the foothills of the Himalayas to southern China, Nepal (a rare and local resident), Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, and through peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to the western islands of Indonesia and the Philippines (del Hoyo et al. 2002, Inskipp et al. 2011). The current population has been estimated at 26,000-550,000 individuals, which according to previous levels of forest cover may be a 90% decline on historical levels, and a significant decline within the past couple of decades (Lammertink et al. 2009).


Behaviour This resident species breeds between March and June in the west of its range and without a distinct season in South-East Asia (Lammertink 2004; see Kumar and Shahabuddin 2012). Clutch size is two to four eggs. Nest-hole excavation, incubation and chick-rearing are conducted by both sexes, with helpers at some nests. It forages in noisy groups of three to six individuals and sometimes more (Lammertink 2004). Groups occupy large territories. It is not a migrant,  however, in areas of its distribution that show a marked seasonality (e.g. Himalayan foothills) the home range appears to expand locally during winters (Kumar et al. 2011). Habitat It occupies primary semi-open moist deciduous and tropical evergreen old growth, lower elevation forests, as well as adjacent secondary forest and clearings with scattered tall trees. It prefers dipterocarp (e.g. Shorea robusta in Himalayan foothills [R. Kumar in litt. 2016]) and teak forests in certain areas, as well as swamp-forest and tall mangroves. It is most frequent in lowlands and lower hills below 600 m, but does occur up to 1,100 m in the Himalayas and occasionally up to 2,000 m. Diet Foraging groups search and exploit nests of social insects (ants, termites, and stingless bees), often in trunks and branches of old live trees. Birds may also take small fruit (Lammertink 2004).


It is threatened by habitat destruction, particularly the felling of old-growth forest, though it may persist in heavily logged forests at lower densities (Lammertink et al. 2009). There is no evidence of it being hunted but it is absent from or exceedingly rare at sites in Myanmar and Indochina where wildlife hunting is common (Lammertink in litt. 2012).  

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No current action is known for this species, although it does occur in many protected areas (del Hoyo et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct research into the species's ecology and life history. Research the status of this species at additional sites across its range (Lammertink et al. 2009). Assess density responses to forest disturbance in the Indochinese forest complex (Lammertink et al. 2009). Investigate whether degraded forests can support viable populations (Lammertink et al. 2009). Promote the protection of large tracts of its range, particularly in Myanmar which is thought to be a population stronghold (Lammertink et al. 2009). Stop selective logging in mature stands of sal Shorea robusta in Himalayan foothills (Kumar & Shahabuddin 2012). Consolidate existing old-growth forest along the Himalayan foothills by restoring contiguity at the landscape level through reworking management plans and initiating restoration (Kumar & Shahabuddin 2012).


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Westrip, J.

Kumar, R., Inskipp, C., Lammertink, M., Baral, H., Styring, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Mulleripicus pulverulentus. Downloaded from on 20/04/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/04/2019.