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Celeus castaneus

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Picidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Griswold, Sophie

Life History


Chestnut-colored Woodpecker primarily feeds on ants and termites; less commonly, also consumes fruit (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Wetmore (1968) commented that the salivary glands of this species are large, which may be correlated with ant eating behavior, the "large salivary glands providing an insect-holding or formic acid-neutralizing film" (Kilham 1970). Stomach contents include unidentified seeds, drupes, ants, and "clear-winged insects", and other insects (Short 1982), and Askins (1983) observed that "fruit or nuts" composed a small part of the diet. In Panama reportedly can cause damage to fruit in cacao plantations (Wetmore 1968).


Chestnut-colored Woodpecker typically forages in the canopy and subcanopy, descending lower along forest edges (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Forages by pecking into tunnels and from Cecropia trunks, as well as by prying off flakes of bark (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Also regularly clings to foliage, sometimes moving sideways along twigs (Slud 1964). Kilham (1979) observed one Chestnut-colored Woodpecker pulling on dead, loose bracts at the base of a flower stem, causing many small black ants to emerge, some of which fell some 30 cm to another flower cluster; a second woodpecker fed upon the ants that fell, while the first woodpecker continued feeding above. Kilham (1979) could not determine the sex of these two woodpeckers, although both appeared to be adults.


No information.

Sexual Behavior

No information.

Social and interspecific behavior

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker usually forages solitarily, less commonly pairs (Slud 1964).


No information.


There are few published observations of active nests. Available evidence indicates that the breeding season varies across the range of Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, extending from March-June in Oaxaca, April-July in Belize, February-August in Guatemala, May-June in Nicaragua, February-May (or July?) in Costa Rica, and May-July in Panama (Russell 1964, Short 1982, Stiles and Skutch). Three nests in Belize were in dead trees, from 1 m up to "high" in the tree (Russell 1964). Both sexes excavate the nest (Stiles and Skutch 1989). One clutch in Belize consisted of 4 eggs are laid (Russell 1964).

Populations and Demography

The population trend of Chestnut-colored Woodpecker appears to be stable, estimated at about 20,000-49,999 mature individuals over a range of 397,000 km2 (Birdlife international 2012). There is no information related to topics such as age at first breeding, life span and survivorship, dispersal, or population regulation for Chestnut-colored Woodpecker.

Recommended Citation

Griswold, Sophie. 2012. Chestnut-colored Woodpecker (Celeus castaneus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: