The Crimson-mantled Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker (although it is a small species of Colaptes). It is very distinctive: the upperparts mostly are bright scarlet red, although somewhat blacker on the crown, and the underparts are yellow, more or less scalloped with black on the breast. Another conspicuous feature is the large white or yellowish patch on the sides of the face.
No similar species occurs within the range and high Andean habitat of the Crimson-mantled Woodpecker. Other small or medium-sized Andean woodpeckers are olive above. The much smaller Scarlet-backed Woodpecker (Veniliornis callonotus) also has bright red upperparts, but occurs at much lower elevations in dry forest; the two species do not come into contact with one another.
Sexes differ, especially in the color of the crown; there also is geographic variation (see Geographic Variation), although this is minor across most of the range of the species. The following description is based on Short (1982) and Fjeldså and Krabbe (1990).
Adult, male: Crown red. Nape and mantle crimson red. Wings more bronzy. Rump and tail black. Sides of the head pale yellow, with dark red malar. Chin and throat black. Feathers of breast with curving black marks, bars edged with red; this produces a scalloped appearance, especially the feathers are fresh (as the red edges wear off, the breast becomes blacker). Belly yellow, sometimes with black spots.
Adult, female: Similar to male, but crown and malar black.
Juvenile: Plumage duller. Lack red on the breast, and the crown (males) is blacker.
Information needed. Contribute
Iris: red-brown to brown
Tarsi and toes: pale gray
Data from Short (1982).
Total length: 23-25 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2007), 24-25.5 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001), 25 cm (Hilty 2003), 26 cm (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990), 28 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986)
Wing length: 120-145 mm (Short 1982)
Mass: 85-97 g (brevirostris); 100-112 g (rivolii) (data for both subspecies from Short 1982).