Puerto Rican Woodpecker Melanerpes portoricensis

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Picidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Judith D. Toms


Distribution of the Puerto Rican Woodpecker
eBird range map for Puerto Rican Woodpecker

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

Endemic to Puerto Rico and Vieques (Bowdish 1902, Bond 1956). See also Historical changes. Occurs at all elevations.

Distribution outside the Americas

Endemic to Puerto Rico and Vieques.


Puerto Rican Woodpeckers are common in most wooded areas of Puerto Rico, including mangroves, shade coffee groves, coconut plantations and Honduran pine (Pinus caribaea) plantations (Wetmore 1916a, Danforth 1937, Bond 1971, Collazo and Bonilla Martínez 1988, Raffaele et al. 1998). It is more abundant in shade coffee plantations than in native forests (Danforth 1926, Bond 1956, Muiznieks and Collazo 1999). Although it is found at all elevations within the El Yunque rainforest (Recher and Recher 1966), it is less common there than in the Guánica Dry Forest (Kepler and Kepler 1970). Wetmore (1916a) found them in coconut plantations only in deforested areas, suggesting that coconut plantations may be a refuge rather than preferred habitat. In urban areas (San Juan), they prefer small to medium-sized forest patches (Suarez-Rubio and Thomlinson 2009).

Once common (Wetmore 1916b), populations of Puerto Rican Woodpeckers on Vieques may have been affected by military activities and associated habitat disturbance; Sorrié (1975) found them to be uncommon.

Historical changes

Formerly found on Saint Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), but was extirpated from the island before 1927 (Wetmore 1927).

Fossil history

Numerous bones from at least 18-20 individuals were found in Cueva Catedral and Cueva Clara, near Morovís (north central Puerto Rico; Wetmore 1922). The bones most likely were part of owl pellets, and could not be aged precisely. The deposits were roughly aged from modern to perhaps two thousand years old. Interestingly, the bones that appeared to be oldest were larger than bones that appeared to be more modern, suggesting that the size of Puerto Rican Woodpeckers may have decreased over time (Wetmore 1922).

Recommended Citation

Toms, J. D. (2010). Puerto Rican Woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.