Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus)


French: Pic or-olive German: Olivmantelspecht Spanish: Carpintero oliváceo

Picus rubiginosus


, 1820,

Caracas, Venezuela


Closely related to C. auricularis, and sometimes considered conspecific. Both were previously placed in Piculus, but recent phylogenetic analyses indicate that they are embedded within Colaptes#R. Until recently, present species included C. aeruginosus, but differs in male’s red supercilium extending from nape to bill vs extending from nape to above eye (2); rear ear-coverts barred vs clear (1); bars on underparts less scale-shaped (1); wings and tail shorter (effect size for tail vs C. r. yucatanensis −3.63; score 2); wholly different song (protracted rising rattling trill vs deliberate slow-paced series of c. 6 typical picoid high-pitched “kwi” calls), extensive playback experiments yielding frenzied response from own taxon, no response from other taxon (4). Considerable individual variation in coloration and pattern, making defining and delimitation of races difficult; those listed best regarded as a tentative general guide, requiring clarification through further research. Additional named races include maximus (E & C Pacific highlands of SE Mexico and Guatemala), differens (Pacific slope of Guatemala), uropygialis (mountains of Costa Rica and W Panama), and in Colombia pacificus (W Andes), michaelis (SE Nariño), palmitae (W slope of E Andes in N) and nuchalis (E slope of Andes near Ecuador border), all of which fall within range of variation of other races. Eighteen subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. r. yucatanensis (S. Cabot, 1844) – S Mexico (from Oaxaca and S Veracruz) S to W Panama.
  • C. r. alleni (Bangs, 1902) – N Colombia (Santa Marta Mts area).
  • C. r. meridensis (Ridgway, 1911) – NW Venezuela (Sierra de Perijá, Andes and W Coastal Range).
  • C. r. rubiginosus (Swainson, 1820) – mountains in NC & NE Venezuela.
  • C. r. tobagensis (Ridgway, 1911) – Tobago.
  • C. r. trinitatis (Ridgway, 1911) – Trinidad.
  • C. r. deltanus (Aveledo & Ginés, 1953) – Delta Amacuro, in NE Venezuela.
  • C. r. paraquensis (Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1948) – mountains (tepuis) of SC Venezuela.
  • C. r. viridissimus (Chapman, 1939) – Auyán tepui, in SE Venezuela.
  • C. r. guianae (Hellmayr, 1918) – tepuis in E Venezuela and adjacent Guyana.
  • C. r. nigriceps Blake, 1941 – Acarai Mts of S Guyana and adjacent S Suriname.
  • C. r. gularis (Hargitt, 1889) – W & C Andes of Colombia.
  • C. r. rubripileus (Salvadori & Festa, 1900) – SW Colombia, W Ecuador and NW Peru (to Lambayeque).
  • C. r. buenavistae (Chapman, 1915) – E Andes in Colombia and E Ecuador.
  • C. r. coloratus (Chapman, 1923) – extreme SE Ecuador (Cordillera del Cóndor) and NC Peru (S to San Martín).
  • C. r. chrysogaster (Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1902) – C Peru (Huánuco to Cuzco).
  • C. r. canipileus (d’Orbigny, 1840) – S Peru to C & SE Bolivia.
  • C. r. tucumanus (Cabanis, 1883) – S Bolivia to NW Argentina (S to Tucumán).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 18–23 cm; 51–68 g (trinitatis), 51–72 g (meridensis), 74–84 g (gularis), 77–88 g (rubripileus), 78–... read more


    Song a protracted rising rattling trill, very different from slow series of high-pitched “kwi... read more


    Wide range of habitats occupied, both humid and dry. Rainforest and cloudforest, dry cloudforest,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Ants, termites (Isoptera), beetles and their wood-boring larvae; rarely, fruits and berries. Generally singly, or in pairs with partners... read more


    Jan–May from Mexico to Colombia and Trinidad; adult feeding juvenile in Jul in W Ecuador; recorded in Oct in Guyana and... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout most of range; common to fairly common in Central America; fairly common on Pacific slope in Ecuador and Peru, less... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus). 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).