Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Greater Flameback (Chrysocolaptes guttacristatus)


French: Pic de Tickell German: Goldmantel-Sultanspecht Spanish: Pito sultán grande

Picus guttacristatus


, 1833,

jungles of Birbhum and Dhalbhum, West Bengal


Until recently, considered a subspecies in the C. lucidus group of taxa (C. guttacristatus, C. stricklandi, C. strictus, C. erythrocephalus, C. haematribon, C. lucidus and C. xanthocephalus). Differs from C. strictus in its substantially larger size, based on published data#R (2); white-spotted black head (female) (3); much fuller complement of red on rump (extending up back) (2); stronger golden upperparts (1); bolder moustachial, malar and mesial stripes (ns[1]); and bolder-patterned underparts (ns[1])#R. Coastal W Indian form socialis sometimes treated as a further separate species#R, reported as differing significantly in size and in voice (does not respond to playback of guttacristatus) and to lesser extent in plumage#R; further study needed. Populations of Peninsular Malaysia and W Sundas previously referred to as race chersonesus, but name indomalayicus has priority#R. Larger and larger-billed W Himalayan form sultaneus tentatively included here, but often considered too poorly differentiated to warrant recognition. Five subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. g. socialis Koelz, 1939 – Malabar Flameback – W coast of peninsular India.
  • C. g. sultaneus (Hodgson, 1837) – Himalayan foothills in NW India and W Nepal.
  • C. g. guttacristatus (Tickell, 1833) – Greater Flameback – foothills in EC Nepal E to S China (Yunnan) and S to Bangladesh, E India (S to SE Madhya Pradesh and N Andhra Pradesh), Thailand and Indochina.
  • C. g. indomalayicus Hesse, 1911 – Peninsular Malaysia S to Sumatra and W Java.
  • C. g. andrewsi Amadon, 1943 – NE Borneo (from around Sandakan to Sebatik I).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 30–34 cm; 150–233 g (nominate); 129–131 g (indomalayicus). Male has forehead, crown and crest red, broad black and white bands on face; golden-... read more


    Fast series of insect-like notes, monotonous or varying in speed and pitch, e.g. “di-di-di-di... read more


    Open deciduous and evergreen forest, secondary forest, riparian woodland in open country, old... read more

    Food and feeding

    Large caterpillars, larvae of wood-boring beetles, pupae, ants and other insects; also takes nectar. Recorded as feeding on figs (Ficus... read more


    Season Mar–May in N India, Dec–Mar in S; from Dec in SE Asia; Jul–Nov in Greater Sundas. Nest-hole excavated by both sexes, work sometimes... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Size of global population not yet quantified, but the species is reported to be common to locally common throughout most of its range... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Greater Flameback (Chrysocolaptes guttacristatus). 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 14 December 2019).