Shots of air attacker

My parents’ place has come under repeated aerial attack on most afternoons. All types of preventative defence systems have proven to be a failure. When it happened on a day I was around I quickly grabbed a 200mm and managed to squeeze off a few shots. Naturally the attacker got a way. The images below are the least worst of my shooting.

The first thing that struck me about this bird is the extremely silly looking head gear. The photos do not fully convey the ridiculousness of it. The target of this crazed character were my parents’ window frames. He hammers away at the wood like a drill (Wrrr Wrr) without much effect. The damage is limited to extensive scratches on the paint. The worst part of these attacks is the noise — particularly if the occupants of the room are trying to enjoy the humble weekend luxury of a post lunch nap.

I’m totally ignorant about this kind of feathered lunatic (unlike other flying food critics I’ve blogged about). I’m sure the official bird man of the SL Blogosphere will have some words of wisdom to explain this mad behaviour — perhaps offer some workable air defence strategies. The airforce understandably doesn’t get involved in invasions of private airspace.

At least it’s a short enough to blog about.


Gallicissa has graciously typed up some interesting details about this bird – despite been hassled to no end by wordress’s comment restrictions (and my tardy online appearances). Anyway I’ve managed to update his comments (hopefully I got it right – please let me know if I haven’t).

I’m deeply grateful that he took the time to share his knowledge of Sri Lanka’s feathered characters. If you want to learn more about Sri Lankan birding, check out his blog at


17 thoughts on “Shots of air attacker

  1. ha ha 😀 It’s a “Kottoruwa” I guess. Amila will know for sure. Hope he finds a tree, and give your parents back the beauty sleep they miss 🙂
    Great post!



  2. Me-shak,
    I think we call it ‘kerala’. Anyway there is a confusion between ‘kottoruwa’ and ‘kerala’. again we need the help of Amila.

    Great to hear that. Hope you managed to show your colors among all the international pros.
    Just gimme one month. I’ll be back on track 🙂


  3. (Wrrr Wrr) sounds like our Drummer on cymbals, hair do looks like him too, perhaps all the alphabets are giving him enough trouble he became a bird.


  4. 🙂 Thats my picture on Wikipedia. Well it was the closest woodpecker entry I could find. How the heck you id’ed if from that terrible old picture I don’t know. It was a very old point and shoot years ago 🙂
    The black rumped doesn’t seem to have an entry. If you make the page, I’ll move the pic 🙂 has no link to the black rumped. Lets make it 🙂
    Some later pictures.


  5. Part-1.

    I am sure this would come as a surprise for you ladies, this bird is a male.

    And I didn’t use the phrase: ‘you ladies’ in a disparaging sense to refer to all the fine blokes who have commented over at Cerno’s, but I purely meant it for the real ladies who may read this comment, like LD…:)

    Okay, with that cleared, let’s see what we have got here.

    First, I think the bird is upset that it is seeing a rival in its territory, in its own reflection.
    The ‘Wrrr Wrr’ sound Cerno has explained tells me that it perfroms ‘drumming’, which in the woodpecker sexuality, is the primary means of communication for mate attraction—superceding direct vocal communications.

    So, that ‘lunatic feathered friend’ is confused, and blinded by love.

    FYI, June is one of the months in its breeding season.

    Things to prevent this nuisance: First, experiment by pasting a close up of a Owl’s face, showing its big rounded eyes. Heritance Kandalama uses this technique in their restaurant to prevent birds crashing into its large glass-windows. It seems to work there, and may help in your case too.

    If it doesn’t work, cover the glass to prevent it seeing its own relection.

    There is a chance that even if you do that, it may still come to drum at the window frame for the sheer pleasure it brings! If that happens, you may have to cover the window frames from outside as well!

    Your bird is the Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense (Linnaeus, 1758), which used to be known as Red-backed Woodpecker in the good old days.

    A note of caution for you googling experts: If you see in Wikipedia, the images there of this have golden backs. That is because of racial variation, and all shown in that page are Indian birds. We do get Black-rumped Flameback with golden backs in Sri Lanka too (endemic sub-species: jaffnense), but they are found in the dry zone (loosely, north of Puttlam) where the red-backed and golden-backed forms are found sympatrically.

    Interestingly, the red-backed and golden-backed forms hybridise, which precludes these two subspecies from being elevated to full species level. For you wondering minds, babies of such mixed marriages show backs of intermediate shades between red and yellow. 🙂


    Kaerala කෑරලා is the correct Sinhala name for your bird although many people mistakenly call it: kottoruwa, which should be reserved for the green-coloured Barbets.

    Being a tree hole nester, Barbets of course do their share of excavating and renovating of tree holes by pecking. However, this doesn’t produce a lot of sound as in the woodpeckers, and helped by the green camouflage, they do not catch for our attention as the woodpeckers do for their acts of pecking.

    I think the name: kottoruwa is not derived from their pecking, which as you know, in Sinhala is kateema කෙටීම n., and kotanawa කොටනවා v . Instead, I think it is onomatopoeic—named after the call of the widespread, Brown-headed Barbet, which goes like: kottoruwa…kottoruwa…kottoruwa…

    So, coming back to its real name, in a court of law you should use the official Sinhala names: පිට රතු රත්-කෑරලා/පිට රන් රත්-කෑරලා (Pita-rathu Rath-Kaerala/Pita-ran Rath Kaerala) for the red-backed and golden backed sub species, respectively. This is just in case, if this problem would escalate into a legal row. 🙂

    Your parents should consider themselves lucky that the culprit wasn’t the Greater Flameback, the drumming of which sounds like a Black-rumped Woodpecker on steroids. I presume the call of the former is adapted to carry over the noise of gushing rain forest streams and other noises in their wide territories. Greater Flameback is found in forested areas across all zones except the very arid belts in the North and South.

    The Sri Lankan endemic subspecies of Greater Flameback looks similar to the red-backed form of Black-rumped Flameback, and many newbies mistake it. A case in point is, in Wikipedia, the picture of a bird shared as Greater Flameback photographed at Dehiwala, is a Black-rumped Flameback. The latter has a darker beak and darker eyes vs. Ivory-coloured beak and pale eyes, in Greater Flameback—just to point out two features that seperate them.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

    …and done, in just two parts!
    Sorry blogger, I think you are way better!


  6. Amila: So sorry for all the hassle you had to go through to type in your comments. Seems all of them ended up in wordpress’s super aggressive spam filter. I approved them all. My apologies for the delay in login in to check.

    I’ve very grateful for your info and will definitely pass them on to my father. Interestingly he did try pasting a owl’s picture on the window but this mad bird ignored it totally.


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