Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Chestnut Woodpecker (Celeus elegans)


French: Pic mordoré German: Fahlkopfspecht Spanish: Carpintero elegante

Picus elegans

Statius Müller

, 1776,



Recent molecular study found this species to form a monophyletic group with C. flavescens and C. lugubris#R. Dark-crowned, short-crested races jumanus and citreopygius sometimes considered to form a separate species, but some representatives of race hellmayri almost as dark on crown, and variations in size and crest length among subspecies render clear taxonomic evaluation of the “jumanus group” difficult; but molecular data#R indicate that jumanus group is sister to C. flavescens (rather than to other races of C. elegans), suggesting that treatment of jumanus and citreopygius as representing a separate species may be appropriate; further study required. Described form roosevelti (from W Mato Grosso) considered a hybrid probably between jumanus and C. lugubris#R. Birds from upper R Branco, in N Brazil, described as race approximans, but appear inseparable from nominate; proposed race saturatus (N Bolivia) indistinguishable from jumanus. Form named as C. immaculatus, known only from type specimen, supposedly from Panama, appears to be an aberrant form of nominate race of present species with erroneous locality data. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. e. hellmayri Berlepsch, 1908 – E Venezuela, Guyana and most of Suriname, and extreme N Brazil (N Roraima).
  • C. e. leotaudi Hellmayr, 1906 – Trinidad.
  • C. e. deltanus Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1950 – Delta Amacuro (NE Venezuela).
  • C. e. elegans (Statius Müller, 1776) – Rufous-crested Woodpecker – E Suriname, French Guiana, and N Brazil N of Amazon (R Branco E to Amapá).
  • C. e. jumanus (Spix, 1824) – Chestnut-crested Woodpecker – E Colombia and S Venezuela (Amazonas, S Bolívar) through W & C Brazil (E to R Negro and, S of Amazon, E to Maranhão, and S to Rondônia and Mato Grosso) to N Bolivia.
  • C. e. citreopygius P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1867 – E Ecuador and E Peru.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 26–32 cm; 138–168 g (hellmayri), 112–146 g (jumanus), 93–139 g (leotaudi). Male has buffish-cream forehead, crown and... read more


    Descending “wewa ew-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew” or sarcastic-sounding “har-hahaha” as... read more


    Variety of tall dense and light forests, including humid terra firme, gallery and v... read more

    Food and feeding

    Ants and termites (Isoptera); also dipteran larvae. Fruits (e.g. Cecropia, citrus and introduced mango) and berries also taken,... read more


    Apr–May in Trinidad and French Guiana; specimens with enlarged gonads in Jan–Feb in S Venezuela and NW Brazil. Nest-cavity in... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Relatively common; very common in NE Venezuela; uncommon to locally fairly common in Ecuador and Peru. Occurs in several protected areas, e.g.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Chestnut Woodpecker (Celeus elegans). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 12 December 2019).