Two subspecies are recognized: Colaptes campestris campestris, which is distributed from northern Paraguay to the northern regions of Brazil; and Colaptes campestris campestroides, which is found in southern Brazil and Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. These subspecies seem to hybridize from the Paraguayan chaco across central Paraguay, the northern extreme of Misiones (Argentina) and across Santa Catarina (Brazil). The two subspecies are isolated by continuous forest vegetation. However, when compared to other species, geographical variation is very limited in Campo Flickers, and is restricted to a difference in throat coloration, which is black for campestris and white for campestroides (Short 1972).
The true woodpeckers, which are assigned to the subfamily Picinae, are considered to be a monophyletic group. Short (1982) initially separated the woodpeckers into six tribes, among them, the Colaptini, including Colaptes and allies. However, a recent study using nucleotide sequences for the 12S ribosomal RNA, cytochrome b, and cytochrome oxidase c subunit 1 found support for three distinct woodpecker clades, and proposed the recognition of the following tribes: Malarpicini, Dendropicini, and Megapicini. According to this study, the Malarpicini would contain the genera Colaptes, Piculus, Celeus, Dryocopus, Mulleripicus, Dinopium, Meiglyptes, Picus, Campethera, and Geocolaptes (Webb and Moore 2005). Moreover, the study proposes the designation of the monophyletic sub-tribe Dryocolaptes within the Malarpicini, which would include the genera Colaptes, Piculus, Mulleripicus, Dryocopus and Celeus (Webb and Moore 2005). The genus Colaptes is represented by eight species, called flickers, distributed throughout the New World. The flickers encompass some of the most social species, as well as some species with highly terrestrial habits. From an evolutionary perspective, flickers are particularly interesting because of the occurrence of hybridization in four of the eight species (Short 1972).