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Yellow-tufted Woodpecker Melanerpes cruentatus

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Picidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Kara Jones


Geographic Variation

Melanerpes cruentatus is monotypic; no subspecies are recognized. Nonetheless this species exhibits significant geographic variation. In the northeastern portion of its range (eastern Venezuela, the Guianas, Brazil north of the Amazon and east of the Rio Negro, and south of the Amazon in eastern Pará), the so-called black headed morph is prevalent. The black headed morph lacks the pale postocular streak and the yellow nape, and, in the male, the patch of red on the crown is more round, less rectangular. Although most individuals are "pure" for the yellow-tufted or black-headed morph, intermediates also are frequent, showing some signs of the postocular streak, the nape patch, or both (Short 1970). The black-headed morph previously was recognized as a separate species, Melanerpes rubrifrons.

Related Species

Described as Picus cruentatus Boddaert 1783; type locality Cayenne

Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data (from mitochondrial genes) indicates that Melanerpes forms a clade with Sphyrapicus (sapsuckers) and with Xiphidiopicus percussus (Cuban Green Woodpecker), with Xiphidiopicus sister to Melanerpes and Sphyrapicus basal to this group (Webb and Moore 2005, Overton and Rhoads 2006).

Relationships within Melanerpes have not been resolved. Short (1970) suggested that Melanerpes cruentatus forms a superspecies with the allopatric Melanerpes pucherani (Black-cheeked Woodpecker), Melanerpes chrysauchen (Golden-naped Woodpecker), and Melanerpes flavifrons (Yellow-fronted Woodpecker).

Recommended Citation

Jones, K. (2014). Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.