Male differs from all other woodpeckers in the region by having an all-red forehead, crown and moustacial stripes. Male of north-western race (buysi) has mostly unmarked, pale peach-coloured underparts.
Female is readily identifiable by the brown throat and ear coverts. Juvenile resembles female.
Broad-leaved woodland and savanna. often feeds on the ground.
A high-pitched, chattering 'whirrr-itt-whrrr-itt', often uttered in duet.