Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Elliot's Woodpecker (Dendropicos elliotii)


French: Pic d’Elliot German: Elliotspecht Spanish: Pito de Elliot

Polipicus Elliotii


, 1863,

Muni River, Gabon


Sometimes (with D. johnstoni) placed in a separate genus Mesopicos along with D. goertae, D. spodocephalus and D. griseocephalus#R; in the past, sometimes separated (with D. johnstoni) in genus Polipicus. Generally regarded as conspecific with D. johnstoni, and birds on Mt Kupé (WC Cameroon), here recognized as race kupeensis, have been considered a hybrid population; re-examination and re-measurement of Mt Kupé specimens, however, show that this population, while intermediate in tail length between the other two, is very close in wing length to johnstoni but has bill length shorter than that of johnstoni, indicating that it is not hybrid but merits status as a subspecies of johnstoni (D. j. kupeensis). On this basis, present species differs from D. johnstoni in having heavy vs no or only light streaking below (3); tail mainly same green as upperparts vs mainly blackish (2); more buffy, less greenish face (supercilium and ear-coverts) (1); larger bill and longer tail (effect size for tail when compared with johnstoni and kupeensis combined 2.2; hence 2). Angolan birds formerly recognized as race gabela or angolensis, but they differ from other populations barely, if at all. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Lowland SW Cameroon and SW Central African Republic discontinuously to Gabon and W Angola (Cuanza Norte S to Benguela), and E across W, SC & NE DRCongo to SW & E Uganda (Kibale S to Bwindi Forest, also Mt Elgon), W Rwanda and W Burundi.

Descriptive notes

c. 19–22 cm; 32–40 g. Male has black forehead and forecrown, red hind­crown and nape, reddish-buff lores; crown sides and rest of head buff, rear ear-coverts... read more


Shrill “bwe-bwe” notes and series reported, or softer “kiwik-kiwik-kiwik”;... read more


Dense primary forest, also swamp-forest, gallery forest and secondary forest with tall trees. In... read more

Food and feeding

Larvae of beetles, also other insects. Occurs singly or in pairs; joins mixed-species flocks, occasionally with other woodpecker species.... read more


Birds in breeding condition in Sept in Angola, in Oct–Nov in Cameroon; juveniles in Nov–Feb in DRCongo. One nest-hole in... read more



Status and conservation

​Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally uncommon, but perhaps locally common in W of range; uncommon in Angola and uncommon to rare in Uganda. Within its... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Elliot's Woodpecker (Dendropicos elliotii). 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 19 February 2020).