Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers primarily forage in the canopy; at one site in central Peru, the mean foraging height was ca 25–30 m above the ground (Pearson 1971). Skull morphology and small cranial muscle attachment sites indicate that they are not strong excavators (Leonard and Heath 2010) and thus primarily obtain insects through gleaning and flycatching (Johns 1991, Robinson 1997).
Short (1970) described several displays by adults within a group:
Wing-Spreading Display: The wings are opened and held fully extended over the back for one to three seconds, and then are returned to the normal folded position. This display is performed in several contexts: by a woodpecker that alights close to another individual; less frequently, also may be given in this context by the woodpecker that already was perched; by a bird that approaches another while hitching along a tree (perhaps especially when suddenly appearing from the other side of the tree); and by a bird that alights at the entrance to a nest cavity.
Bill Directing-Head Turning Display: This is considered to be an agonistic display. One bird rapidly thrusts its bill towards a bird perched nearby. The other bird may respond by turning its body away from the displaying bird.
Bowing Display: One bird lowers body and beak parallel to the perching surface. May be a conciliatory display. See Short (1970, Figure 3) for drawings of the Bowing Display sequence.