Two subspecies currently recognized:
percussus Temminck 1826; type locality Cuba
Cuba, except for Isle of Pines and Cantiles Keys. See Detailed Description.
insulaepinorum Bangs 1910; type locality Santa Fé, Isle of Pines
Occurs on Isle of Pines and Cantiles Keys. Similar to nominate percussus, but "smaller; coloration paler, especially below; under parts more narrowly and less distinctly streaked, the streaks less blackish, more grayish; red of foreneck more restricted; auricular stripe lighter gray and rather narrower" (Bangs 1910). There is extensive overlap in size between the two subspecies, however (Short 1982).
The relationships of Xiphidiopicus to other woodpeckers was unclear for many years. This genus often was placed near Sphyrapicus (sapsuckers) in linear classifications, implying a close relationship to that genus (e.g. Winkler et al. 1995, AOU 1998). Short (1982) mentioned that "its intricate color patterns resemble to some extent those of species of Melanerpes (formicivorus, cactorum) and Sphyrapicus", although it is not clear if he meant to imply a phylogenetic relationship between Xiphidiopicus, Sphyrapicus, and some species of Melanerpes. A recent phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data (from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene) indicates that Xiphidiopicus is sister to Melanerpes, and that Sphyrapicus is basal to the Xiphidiopicus/Melanerpes clade (Overton and Rhoads 2006).