Okinawa Woodpecker Dendrocopos noguchii


Justification of Red List Category
This woodpecker has a single tiny, declining population which is threatened by the continued loss of mature forest to logging, dam construction, agriculture, and military and golf course developments. These factors qualify it as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number 150-584 individuals (see BirdLife International 2001), with a breeding population of c.75 mature individuals, placed here in the range 50-249 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be undergoing a moderate decline as a result of the on-going clearance of old-growth forests.

Distribution and population

Dendreocopos noguchii is endemic to Okinawa Island, Japan, where it is confined to Kunigami-gun (=Yambaru) with the main breeding areas along the mountain ridges between Mt Nishime-take and Mt Iyu-take (BirdLife International 2001). It also occurs in coastal areas. It was considered close to extinction in the 1930s and, in the early 1990s, the breeding population was estimated to be c.75 birds and the total population between 146-584 birds. A density of 12.1 birds per km2 has been estimated at the US Forces Northern Training Area in north-eastern Okinawa.


It occurs in subtropical, evergreen broadleaved forest at least 30 years old, with tall trees more than 20 cm in diameter, much of which is now confined to hill-tops. Foraging takes place in old-growth forest. Nesting is between late February-May, often in hollow Castanopsis cuspidata trees. There is an extraordinary difference in the foraging niches of males and females (Kotaka et al. 2006). Although both forage on dead and live trunks, males have also adapted to feed on the ground on soil-dwelling arthropods, as well as berries, seeds, acorns and other nuts (Kotaka et al. 2006).


Its decline is primarily attributable to deforestation, which continues at a significant rate as a result of logging, dam construction and associated road-building, agricultural development and golf course construction. Six new helipads have been built near the village of Takae in the US Marine Corps Northern Training Area, with consequent impacts on remaining areas of forest (WWF Japan 2007, Nogami 2017). The species's limited range and tiny population make it vulnerable to extinction from disease and natural disasters such as typhoons. It is also threatened by introduced predators, such as mongoose and feral cats (N. Kotaka in litt. 2012). The species is thought to be particularly susceptible to predation by alien species because it often forages on the ground, and during a 2006 survey the stomach contents of a captured mongoose were found to contain the species's feathers (N. Kotaka in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in Japan. It occurs in Yonaha-dake Prefecture Protection Area and small protected areas on Mt Ibu and Mt Nishime and conservation organisations have purchased sites where it occurs. In early 2012, the Ministry of the Environment was preparing for the designation of the Yambaru area as a national park, although some forest in the Yambaru area has been protected by local administrations since 2007 (N. Kotaka in litt. 2012). 

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor its population. Designate a special protected area to cover all the mature forest (40 years old or more) on the central ridge of northern Okinawa, and strictly protect forest that has escaped deforestation during and since World War II (N. Kotaka in litt. 2012). Connect fragmented forests in the north with planted forest corridors and ensure all forests of more than 25 years old are protected and logging is prohibited. Provide nest-boxes in young secondary forest. Initiate a conservation education programme using Okinawa Rail Gallirallus okinawae and Okinawa Woodpecker as flagship species.


31 cm. Medium-sized, dark woodpecker. Generally deep brown with reddish tips to feathers, brightest on lower rump and uppertail-coverts. White spots on primaries. Tan-brown lores, malar area and ear-coverts and paler brown throat. Male has dark red crown and nape streaked with blackish-brown and female has blackish-brown crown. Voice Sharp whit call and a variable kyu-kyu kup kup kup or kyu kyu kup.


Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Temple, H., North, A., Westrip, J., Crosby, M., Benstead, P., Peet, N., Chan, S., Symes, A.

Kotaka, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Dendrocopos noguchii. Downloaded from on 30/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/09/2020.