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White-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes cactorum

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White-fronted Woodpecker is an unusual species, and perhaps this is expected as many Melanerpes are “oddballs” in the woodpecker world. As the scientific name implies, this species is partial to cacti, in particular large tree-like cacti that are large enough for them to use as breeding plants. In much of the range of this species, it is absolutely always near large cacti. Curiously the species appears to be spreading to the south and to the east in Buenos Aires province, Argentina and in W Uruguay, and it is spreading into areas without large cacti. Here it seems to make do with other tree species, although the habitat relationships are unstudied here where the range is spreading. It is unusual in that it is a very confiding woodpecker, easy to see where it is plentiful, and it is found in groups of 3-5. The breeding biology is unstudied, but the group size suggests that there are helpers at the nest in this species, as does the way that when together these woodpeckers often keep very short inter-individual distances, they can perch nearly touching each other. In many ways they recall Acorn Woodpeckers of farther north, although not as showy and noticeable, White-fronted Woodpeckers are definitely subdued in their behavior. They also like to keep low, often close to the ground or to eye level, not working up high in trees, even when these are available. White-fronted Woodpeckers are gorgeous, a bird that looks much more vividly colored in life than in field guides. The most obvious character is the bright lemon yellow throat, outlined in white, contrasting with the white forehead and black face.

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© Emiliano Depino

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

Recommended Citation

White-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cactorum), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/whfwoo1