Rufous-headed Woodpecker Celeus spectabilis

  • © Karlos Kastro

The Rufous-headed Woodpecker is arguably one of the more spectacular and specialized woodpeckers in South America. It is a member of the genus Celeus that is found in western Amazonia from eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru south through western Brazil to northern Bolivia. Throughout much of its range, it is highly specialized on, and found in stands of Guadua bamboo that grows along the edge of the larger rivers. Elsewhere, such as in eastern Ecuador, where Guadua bamboo is less common, the Rufous-headed Woodpecker is present in riverine habitats, in particular stands of dense cane (Gynerium sp.). Superficially resembles the stunning Ringed Woodpecker (Celeus torquatus), but differs by having an entirely bright “rufous” head, an ornately patterned body of black bars and spots on a creamy-buff background, and un-patterned rufous flight feathers. Females differ by lacking the red flicker-like red moustache of the male. To round out an already amazing-looking bird, the bill is yellowish, and the eyes are blue-gray. The range of Rufous-headed Woodpecker overlaps with Ringed Woodpecker, but that species is found in the canopy of terra firme and transitional forest. Similarly, it overlaps with other Celeus species, but none resemble the ornate-looking Rufous-headed. It is generally very shy and difficult to see as both bamboo and cane are difficult habitats to penetrate, and males call infrequently. The main vocalization is a somewhat faint “hee-er-er-er-er-er,” but hearing a gently tapping on the bamboo stalks is a better method of detection.

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© Ted Parker

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: