Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus


Justification of Red List Category
Data from Southern African Bird Atlas Projects suggests that this species is experiencing at least a moderately rapid decline, but there is uncertainty over the rate of decline. Therefore, this species is now listed as Near Threatened, but further information regarding population trends may mean that the species's Red List status requires re-evaluation.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be common in most of its range (del Hoyo et al. 2002).

Trend justification
Lee et al. (2017) analysed Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP) data (SABAP1 1987-1992; SABAP2 2007-2014. Note SABAP2 is ongoing but data taken from 2014) and suggested that this species is experiencing a decline in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Lee et al. (2017) suggest that reporting rate has declined 51.7%, range has declined 43.3% and core range has declined 39.5% between SABAPs (although the corrected population change metric suggests population declines may be lower than this). Declines may in part be due to incomplete sampling during SABAP2, but it is precautionarily assessed that the species may be at least declining moderately rapidly over 3 generations (15 years).

Distribution and population

Geocolaptes olivaceus is found in mountainous areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Hockey et al. 2005, Taylor et al. 2015).


It occurs on rocky slopes, mostly in areas dominated by grass and shrubs; including road cuttings or derelict buildings (Hockey et al. 2005). It is mainly sedentary but there is some suggestion that it could be an altitudinal migrant, and individuals may wander away from mountainous areas in the non-breeding season (Hockey et al. 2005).


Afforestation may be a threat to the species (Allan et al. 1997, Armstrong and van Hensbergen 1999). This species has also been considered to be potentially under threat from climate change (see Taylor et al. 2015), and temperatures in South Africa have been reported to be rising (van Wilgen et al. 2016). Given the presented declines of Lee et al. (2017) there could also be a separate unknown threat impacting the species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted actions are known, but it occurs in several protected areas.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct research to get better estimates of population size and trends. Investigate whether there are any other threats that could be causing the species to decline.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Westrip, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Geocolaptes olivaceus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2020.