A large and widespread woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker is distinguised by a bright red crest and sides of the head. Both sexes show a black back and black wings, with a pale cinnamon buffy belly that is heavily barred with black streaks. Both sexes also exhibit a white stripe down each side of the upper back. Females have a broad white stripe across the sides of the head, and also have show a black forecrown.
The Crimson-crested Woodpecker shares many similarities with Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus), whose range overlaps broadly with that of Crimson-crested. Both sexes of Lineated Woodpecker have a narrow white stripe extending from the base of the bill across the sides of the head, and also have more extensive black and gray on the sides of the face. Crimson-crested Woodpecker also has a facial pattern very similar to that of Guayaquil Woodpecker (Campephilus gayaquilensis), although these two species are completely allopatric. The wings and back of Guayaquil Woodpecker also are dark brown, not black as in Crimson-crested. Crimson-crested Woodpecker also overlaps broadly with Red-necked Woodpecker (Campephilus rubricollis); however, the Red-necked Woodpecker has a deep tawny, unbarred barred belly, has a completely black back (lacking the white dorsal stripes of Crimson-crested), and the bases of its remiges are broadly rufous.
The following detailed description is based primarily on Wetmore (1968):
Adult male: Most of head, including a conspicuous crest, is bright red. Nasal tufts, the anterior lores, and a spot at the base of the mandible are white to pale yellow. Often there is a narrow black line (absent in some individuals) across the lower forecrown, just above the lores. There also is a spot on the auriculars; the upper portion of this spot is black, and the lower portion is white. Nape, back, and scapulars black, with two conspicuous white stripes that extends from either side of the neck down the upper back. Wing coverts black; wings, rump, uppertail coverts and rectrices brownish black; outer webs and tips of the primaries are edged with dull white, inner webs of primaries and secondaries pale yellow to yellowish white. Throat, foreneck, sides of neck, and upper breast black. Lower breast and belly pale cinnamon buff to tawny, broadly barred with black. Undertail coverts pale yellow to yellowish white
Adult female: Similar to male, but forecrown and anterior portion of the crest are black. A broad white stripe extends from the base of the bill across the sides of the head to the white stripe on the neck; on the sides of the head, this white stripe is bordered above by black. There also has a narrow white line behind the eye and on the side of the nape.
Juvenile: Juvenile male is similar to adult female, except the side of its head is red, and the black of the crown is reduced. Also, the red of the head is paler. Juvenile female is similar to the adult female, except that the red of the head is paler.
No information available.
Iris: white, honey yellow, bright yellow; bare skin around eye dusky. One report of sexual dimorphism in iris color: in Venezuela, 1 female with iris "red", 2 males with iris "yellow" (Willard et al. 1991).
Bill: dark gray, paler at base (malherbii) or ivory, usually with a grayish cast
Tarsi and toes: pale greenish slate, brownish gray, gray
Bare parts color data from Wetmore (1968), Short (1982), and Willard et al. (1991).
Total Length: 33-36 cm (Wetmore 1968), 33.5-35.5 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a), 34-35 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2010), 36 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Hilty 2003)
Linear measurements (from Wetmore 1968):
| Wing length || Tail length || Culmen from base || Tarsus length |
(n = 15)
Mean: 184.0 mm
Range: 181-187 mm
Mean: 109.2 mm
Range: 100.0-117.2 mm
Mean: 43.5 mm
Range: 43.6-51.9 mm
Mean: 36.9 mm
(n = 14)
Range: 181-188 mm
Mean: 109.0 mm
Range: 102.5-115.1 mm
Mean: 43.5 mm
Range: 41.2-47.8 mm
Mean: 36.1 mm
Range: 35.1-36.9 mm
Mass: male, mean 257 g (range 225-281 g, n = 9; Haverschmidt and Mees 1994); female, mean 255 g (range 230-281 g, n = 9; Haverschmidt and Mees 1994). Two males 240 g, 245 g, 1 female 240 g (Willard et al. 1991).