Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Grey-capped Woodpecker (Picoides canicapillus)


French: Pic à coiffe grise German: Grauscheitelspecht Spanish: Pico crestigrís
Other common names: Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker

Picus canicapillus


, 1845,

Ramree Island, Arakan, Myanmar


This species, along with P. temminckii, P. kizuki, P. maculatus, P. ramsayi, P. nanus and P. moluccensis, was previously placed in Dendrocopos, but molecular studies indicate that they all form a separate clade of very small species, evidently sister to the P. tridactylus clade#R#R; all seven have been combined in Yungipicus by some authors. Present species has at times been considered conspecific with P. nanus, but the two are sympatric in Nepal without interbreeding. Himalayan races differ vocally and morphologically from other S & SE Asian ones; re-evaluation of species limits desirable#R. Mainland races generally intergrade. Taiwan population originally named as a separate species, Dendrocopos[= Picoides] wattersi, but specimen shown to be juvenile of present species; name subsequently synonymized with kaleensis. Other named races include gigantisculus (Khasi Hills, NE India), szetschuanensis (C China), nagamichii (E China), omissus (W & S China), obscurus (SW & S Yunnan) and tonkinensis (Tonkin), all considered either to represent intergrades between populations or to fall within range of variation of adjacent races. Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. doerriesi (Hargitt, 1881) – E Siberia (Ussuriland), NE China (Heilongjiang, Jilin) and Korea.
  • P. c. scintilliceps (Swinhoe, 1863) – E & C China from Liaoning S to Sichuan and Zhejiang.
  • P. c. kaleensis (Swinhoe, 1863) – W & S Sichuan E to Fujian and Taiwan, and S to N Myanmar and N Indochina.
  • P. c. swinhoei (E. J. O. Hartert, 1910) – Hainan.
  • P. c. mitchellii (Malherbe, 1849) – N Pakistan E to Nepal.
  • P. c. semicoronatus (Malherbe, 1849) – extreme E Nepal E to W Assam.
  • P. c. canicapillus (Blyth, 1845) – E Assam, Bangladesh, C & S Myanmar, most of Thailand and Laos.
  • P. c. delacouri (Meyer de Schauensee, 1938) – SE Thailand, Cambodia and S Vietnam (Cochinchina).
  • P. c. auritus (Eyton, 1845) – S Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.
  • P. c. volzi (Stresemann, 1920) – Riau Archipelago and Sumatra, including Nias I.
  • P. c. aurantiiventris (Salvadori, 1868) – Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–16 cm; 20–27 g (mitche­llii), 21–32 g (semicoronatus, scintilliceps). Male has grey forehead and crown, black crown sides... read more


    Short, soft “cheep” or “pic” or “tzit”; doubled “chip-... read more


    Inhabits a great variety of forests and woodlands. Oak (Quercus), deciduous and mixed... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes caterpillars, homopterans, small beetles, insect pupae, grubs, Diptera, ants, and fruits; seeds (grass) and other plant... read more


    Apr–Jul in Indian Subcontinent and Dec–Apr in SE Asia; somewhat later in N parts of range. Display with crest-raising, bill-... read more


    Largely resident. Minor post-breeding movements down to lowlands in N parts of range. Probably only... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common to fairly common in much of range. Rare and very local in Pakistan; in Nepal, rare in W and more common in E; locally fairly common in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Grey-capped Woodpecker (Picoides canicapillus). 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 11 December 2019).