Stierling's Woodpecker Dendropicos stierlingi


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline, owing to the clearance of its principal habitat for firewood. If the decline is found to be greater, the species might qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Population justification
The population size of this species has not been quantified; it is considered common.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to the clearance of its principal habitat for firewood.

Distribution and population

Dendropicos stierlingi occurs in southern Tanzania, northern Mozambique and adjacent southern Malawi (Winkler et al. 1995, Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006). Within most of this small range the species is uncommon to rare (Fry et al. 1988) although it has been reported as being common in parts of the Dzalanyama Mountains in Malawi (Short and Horne 1981).


It inhabits Brachystegia woodland almost exclusively (Fry et al. 1988), from lowland areas up to 1,500 m (del Hoyo et al. 2002). Its distribution is limited even within this habitat, although the reasons for this are unclear (Fry et al. 1988). It feeds on insects and centipedes in the middle strata and canopy, foraging on branches 4-12 cm thick and thus apparently avoiding competition with Cardinal Woodpecker D. fuscescens which feeds more often on twigs and smaller branches (Short and Horne 1981). However, the opening-up of Brachystegia woodland probably favours Cardinal Woodpecker over Stierling's Woodpecker (Short and Horne 1981). It nests in tree holes, probably in July-October (del Hoyo et al. 2002).


In Malawi and possibly also in Mozambique and Tanzania, Brachystegia woodland is being cleared for firewood especially in areas of tobacco cultivation where the tobacco is dried over wood fires (F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 1999). It may be used for traditional medicine (Vats and Thomas 2015). In the long term the survival of this species depends solely on a few forest reserves, whose future is considered uncertain (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006). In particular, much of Dzalanyama FR has been cleared by the Forestry Department itself in recent years (N. Borrow per F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation action is known for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain a total population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across the species's range. Protect the species's habitat. Conduct surveys to obtain an estimate of how many individuals may be taken for traditional medicine.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.

Dowsett, R.J., Borrow, N., Dowsett-Lemaire, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Dendropicos stierlingi. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/stierlings-woodpecker-dendropicos-stierlingi on 03/03/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 03/03/2024.