Five subspecies recognized:
quindiuna (Chapman 1923); type locality Laguneta, Central Andes, Colombia.
Central Andes of Colombia.
rivolii (Boissonneau 1840); no type locality designated when described, type locality as later designated by Chapman: Chipaque, 15 miles east of Bogotá, Colombia
Eastern Andes of Colombia.
meridae (Chapman 1923); type locality Mérida, Venezuela
Andes of northwestern Venezuela.
brevirostris (Taczanowski 1874); type locality Higos and Chilpes, central Peru
Southwestern Colombia south to central Peru.
atriceps (Sclater and Salvin 1876); type locality Huasampilla, Peru
Southeastern Peru in Cuzco and Puno, and Bolivia.
Atriceps is the most distinctive subspecies. The crown is black in the male, and the black of the crown is more extensive in the female. Edging on the breast feathers is yellow (not red). The extent of red on the wings is reduced.
The Crimson-mantled Woodpecker was classified for many decades in the genus Piculus. A phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data, however, showed that rivolii and "Piculus" rubiginosus (Golden-olive Woodpecker) clustered within the genus Colaptes (Webb and Moore 2005); as this study did not include any other species of Piculus, however, this did not demonstrate whether all species of Piculus should be merged into Colaptes, or only some members of this group. Benz et al. (2006), using both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, and a somewhat different suite of species, confirmed that rubiginosus (and by extension rivolii) was in the Colaptes group, but that true Piculus (as represented by Piculus chrysochloros Golden-green Woodpecker) formed a separate clade.
A more complete discussion of the generic affinities of rivolii was drafted by Dan Lane for the South American Classification Committee.