Knysna Woodpecker - De Hoop Nature Reserve

Knysna Woodpecker

Any birder across the world will agree that finding a woodpecker out in the field is a bonus and one not to be taken lightly. The distinctive knocking sound when they drive their beak into the bark searching for food is a rare experience that brings even the most experienced birders to a grinding hault!

This past weekend my wife and I were fortunate to go a step further as we watched them build a nest hole in the trunk of a fig tree - how awesome is that!


De Hoop Nature Reserve lies about 3 hours away from Cape Town in the Overberg Region of Western Cape. It is the largest natural area managed by Cape Nature being approximately 340 square kilometres in size.

The reserve has a diverse range of wildlife with a total of 86 mammal species, 260 bird species and 250 species of fish (found in the 3km marine protected area).

unexpected sighting

My wife and I were in the Overberg Region for seascape photography along the rocky coastline of Arniston - herewith a link to previous post: when my friend posted a pair of woodpeckers found at De Hoop Nature Reserve on his instagram account.

We immediately agreed to brave the 37’C weather the next day to see if we could spot and photograph these birds.

It was a really hot day with little to no wind to cool us down and have to admit that we were really looking forward to a cool refreshment as we exited our car at the Fig Tree Restaurant. As we approached I scanned the trees in the area and when I noticed something sticking out of a hole in a trunk of a tree I forgot all about the heat and quickly increased my pace.

We could not believe it — we had found them! Just a few metres away from us a pair of Knysna Woodpeckers were busy making a nest hole - totally unaware of our presence - my wife and I were almost (actually not really!) disappointed at the ease of the search…

Over the next few hours we watched the woodpeckers disappear into their nest hole to continue the excavation (just love the knocking sounds) before turning around to “spit” the wood shavings (sawdust) onto the ground at the base of the tree.

Here are a few photographs I managed to capture:

Copy of Knysna Woodpecker - De Hoop Nature Reserve
Copy of Knysna Woodpecker - De Hoop Nature Reserve

The cherry on the cake was that this was the first time we had ever spotted a Knysna Woodpecker which meant another tick for our lifer list!

An encounter that will never be forgotten!

Till next time…