WKD - Woodpecker KIGO


at the wrong door -

er klopft
an der falschen Tür -

In the birdhouse, a family of ants had taken refuge and the woodpecker was eagerly looking for his lunch...

It took him about a week to completely demolish the woody home.

Here is how this haiku came into being:

While I was sitting on the terrace pondering the problems with a haiku friend, the sentence came to my mind:
he seems to be always knocking at the wrong doors...

just at that very moment someone went KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

so the haiku was born and the woodpecker kept knocking... I never caught him with the camera !

American friend -
the woodpecker knocking
at the wrong door


these rotten trees ...
the woodpecker family
works overtime

Gabi Greve, Ocotber 2007
Read about the trees ...

early morning -
a woodpecker's drumming
fills the valley

. Gabi Greve, September 2010

light snow -
a woodpecker hammers
in the silence

. Gabi Greve, February 2011


CLICK for more photos !

woodpecker, kitsutsuki 啄木鳥
kigo for all autumn

family Picidae, Piciformes.

"tree pecker", kitsutsuki 木突(きつつき)
"tree hitter", kitataki 木たたき

kera けら
kera tsutsuki けらつつき

"carpenter bird", takumi dori 番匠鳥(たくみどり)

Woodpeckers are well-known birds, attracting attention with their habit of drilling and pounding trees with their bills to obtain insect food. About 180 species, including sapsuckers and flickers, are classified in several genera making up the subfamily Picinae; together with closely related piculets and wrynecks, they make up the family Picidae.
Woodpeckers are found over most of the world, but not in Madagascar, New Guinea, Australia, or New Zealand.

In Japan the most common woodpeckers are the small woodpecker, kogera 小げら, the red-headed woodpecker, akagera 赤げら and the blue-headed woodpecker, agogera 青げら. Many more species live in the northern island of Hokkaido. They live in Japan the whole year, but are a kigo for autumn because in that season their knocking is most frequent and their colorful bodies most prominent. It is a special pleasure to stand under a tree with bright colored leaves and listen to the knocking sound. In recent years you can also see them trying to knock on the wooden cedar pillar of an electricty pole.

Check the Wikipedia !

More is here:

Der Buntspecht


Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶

kitsutsuki mo yamete kiku ka yo yuu mokugyo

is the woodpecker
stopping to listen too?
evening's wooden drum

Tr. David Lanoue

He wrote this haiku on the way back from the grave of his daughter.

. Wooden Fish Gong, Mokugyo 木魚
Prayer Gong in the form of a Fish


kitsutsuki no keiko ni tataku hashira kana

a woodpecker
bangs on a house pillar
just for practice

Tr. and comment from Chris Drake:

This hokku is from the 7th month (August) of 1819, not long after Issa's baby daughter has died, and her death may be in the background of the hokku. Judging from Issa's other hokku about woodpeckers in his diary from this period, the bird is probably pecking at a square wooden pillar or vertical beam in the framework of Issa's house, some of which is exposed and not hidden within thick walls. Or perhaps the bird is banging on a vertical beam in a hermitage or small hall near Issa's family temple in his hometown.

His daughter's grave is also near that temple (see my 7/17/2012 Issa translation), and he visited her grave on the 17th day after her death. Issa almost seems to envy the woodpecker, which cheerfully ignores all the distinctions humans make and chooses to peck holes in people's house pillars instead of in trees with insects living in them. There may be a hint of humorous self-criticism in Issa's gentle complaint to the woodpecker that it's ignoring the difference between trees and human houses and thus all too truthfully reminding humans of their transience and mortality.

Further discussion :
- Translating Haiku Forum -


kitsutsuki ga mekiki shite iru iori kana

busy appraising
the meditation hut

I've translated the version that appears near the end of My Spring. In Issa's diary the first and second lines are slightly different, though the basic meaning is the same: kitsutsuki no mekiki shite miru.... Judging from the context in My Spring, the hut seems to be a meditation hut Issa saw inside the precincts of or near a temple after he went to pray at the grave of his young daughter on the 17th day after her death, an important memorial day. That temple is most probably Myousenji (明専寺), a Reformed Pure Land sect temple that was the Kobayashi family temple -- and its head priest mediated an end to the inheritance dispute over the house of Issa's dead father.

It was about a five minutes' walk from what eventually became Issa's house (and was his house at the time he wrote the hokku), and the temple graveyard was about five minutes beyond that. In My Spring a hokku to the dead baby girl is followed by two hokku about woodpeckers and then a hokku at the sutra library (kyoudou) of a temple, presumably Myousenji, so the hut is probably near or inside the temple precincts. The hokku just before the above hokku in My Spring also suggests that the hut or hermitage is near the temple. See below.

hito-nembutsu moおusu dake shiku susuki kana

saying a single
Buddha-name, placing
a stalk of miscanthus

This hokku evokes Issa's visit to his daughter's grave, and it is followed by:

will that woodpecker
ever stop and listen? -- monk beats
a wooden fish at nightfall

The first hokku discussed above follows these two hokku and seems to continue the mild bantering with the woodpecker. The hut or hermitage for meditation is a spiritual place, but the woodpecker looks at it with the eyes of an experienced and skilled realtor appraising the hut's physical value, and it seems uninterested in using its beak to make sounds praising Amida Buddha the way the wooden fish does. If the woodpecker were human, it would be thinking in terms of money, but as a bird it must be thinking in terms of the probable number of delicious worms inside the hut's beams and woodwork.

Finally, following the first hokku translated above is one about an experience inside the temple's sutra library hall:

Buddha smiles
and points at
a farting insect

The woodpecker's sounds are here counterpointed by the farting insect. Perhaps at this point Issa comes to regard even the materialistic sounds of the woodpecker and the farting sound of the insect to be amusing Buddha in their own way and thus creating fitting echoes of Issa's own single Buddha-name that might even cause his dead daughter's soul to smile as well.

Chris Drake

More woodpecker hokku by
. Issa with comments by Chris .

kitsutsuki no shine tote tataku hashira kana

kitsutsuki no tonde kara iru iori kana


kitsutsuki no kareki sagasu ya hana no naka

a woodpecker
searching for dead wood
in the blossoms

--Joosoo (1643-1704), trans. Robin D. Gill

among blossoms
woodpeckers searching
for dead wood

--alternate Gill translation

The woodpecker looks for dead trees
Among the cherry-trees in bloom.

trans. Asastaroo Miyamori

What! mid the flowers the woodpecker
Is seeking out a withered tree.

trans. Basil Hall Chamberlain

Miyamori's comment:
What an unaesthetic bird!

A comment by Charles Horne, from his book, The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East: Japan, based on Chamberlain's translation:
Highly unesthetic of the bird to neglect the blossoms and prefer a withered trunk.

- Compiled by Larry Bole, Kigo Hotline

. Naito Joso 内藤丈草 .


kisutsuki ya ochiba o isogu maki no kigi

woodpecker ——
leaves quickly fall
in the meadow

The scene is Akagi mountain of Gunma prefecture. The woodpecker is pecking at the tree and eating insects. People listening to the sound of the pecking, also notice that the leaves were already falling in the meadow. This is one scene of the highland meadows of late autumn.

This haiku is rather new in style, because haiku usually describes in black "sumie" style, but this haiku is written as if in the oil painting style of the French Impressionists. So Shuoshi seems to have the eyes of a Western artist towards Nature, seen in bright sun-light.

Comment by TAKAHA Shugyo.
MIZUHARA Shuoshi (1892 - 1981)


takumidori kite popura ha o mada chirazu  

woodpeckers coming -
the leaves of the popular
not yet scattered

Hidehiko 秀彦
Tr. Gabi Greve


a woodpecker
pecks up
the coconut tree

Narayanan Raghunathan
India, September 2006


kitsutsuki no hashira o tataku sumai kana

But for a woodpecker
tapping at a post, no sound
at all in the house.

Tr. Sam Hamill

Tapping Woodpeckers
World Haiku Club 2002


kitsutsuki mo io wa yaburazu natsu kodachi

even woodpeckers
don't damage this hut:
summer grove

Tr. Barnhill

Even woodpeckers did not
Damage this hermitage
In the summer grove

Tr. Oseko

About the hermitage of Zen pries Butchoo 仏頂和尚, Butcho, his master, temple Ungan-Ji 雲岸寺.
Basho left this message at the entrance post of the hermitage and left, because the Master was not at home.

even a woodpecker
won't (dare to) damage this hermitage -
summer grove

Tr. Gabi Greve

Oku no Hosomichi, Station 8 - Unganji
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .



Arabian woodpecker (Dendrocopos dorae)
breeding from February to May
source : www.birdsoman.com

source : Arabian Woodpecker Trecking Tour

surprising chill...
from a lonely acacia
woodpecker's drumming


the mulberry tree
provides shade - now on top
woodpecker's drumming


how lucky they are
in their yard pomegranates ...
sound of a woodpecker

Heike Gewi, September 2010





Gabi Greve said...

under her paw
a woodpecker feather
she licks her lips

Geert Verbeke

more of his woodpecker haiku are here:


Gabi Greve said...

Solstice dawning -
the red-headed woodpecker
gives the eaves a voice


the insistence
of the woodpecker


Thick swamp -
an ivory-billed woodpecker
flies in front of the canoe!

The peck-peck-peck
and just the flicker's tail
above my window

in four binoculars:
unsuspecting flicker

(New Cicada, vol. 8, #1, Summer 1989)

Zhanna P. Rader

Gabi Greve said...

Downy Woodpecker on Goldenrod Gall

by artist Robert Bateman

Look at this great painting !


Huddled in the blowing snow, the male downy woodpecker has found a morsel of food in a goldenrod gall.
- Robert Bateman


Anonymous said...

a red cap head
seen off and on
a small woodpecker

etsuko yanagibori


Anonymous said...

even woodpeckers
don't damage this hut -
summer grove

kitsutsuki mo iyo wa yaburazu natsu kodachi

Matsuo Basho, Oku no Hosomichi

Tr. Ad G. Blankestijn

Anonymous said...

no luck
for the woodpecker...
hail on the thicket

kitsutsuki mo fu shiawase yara yabu arare


by Issa, 1814

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Sandi Pray :

autumn sunset . .
a woodpecker disappears
into his echo

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