Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Grey-faced Woodpecker (Picus canus)


French: Pic cendré German: Grauspecht Spanish: Pito cano
Other common names: Grey-headed Woodpecker

Picus canus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,



Hitherto considered conspecific with P. guerini and P. dedemi, but differs from former in its less deep, more restricted red on forecrown (2), grey hindcrown with vague blackish streaking vs  black hindcrown (with some grey streaking)  (3), less dark green plumage above (1), reportedly marked vocal differences (assume at least 1); differs from dedemi in its green vs bronzy-red  upperparts and its greenish-tinged pale grey vs bronzy-red breast (3), yellowish vs brilliant red rump (3), dull greyish to olive-grey vs blackish belly and vent (2). Has hybridized with P. viridis in C Europe#R. Several other races have been described throughout species’ vast range, but differ in only very minor, insignificant characters; thus, named forms perspicuus (from Bulgaria), biedermanni (Altai Mts), zimmermanni (NE China) and perpallidus (Ussuriland) do not warrant separation. Three subspecies currently recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. canus J. F. Gmelin, 1788 – Europe (from S Scandinavia and France) E to W Siberia and Turkey#R.
  • P. c. jessoensis Stejneger, 1886 – E Siberia to Sakhalin and N Japan (Hokkaido), S to NE China.
  • P. c. griseoviridis (A. H. Clark, 1907) – Korea.
  • Descriptive notes

    28–33 cm; 125–165 g (canus), 110–206 g (jessoensis). Male nominate race has red upper forehead and forecrown (often yellowish at rear... read more


    Single “kik” calls; descending sequence of 5–20 clearly separated mournful... read more


    Open country with many copses, in not over-dense forest, floodplain-forest, parks, orchards,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Appears to have more varied diet than that of P. viridis. Chiefly ants (MyrmicaLasius), termites (... read more


    Lays from end Apr to early Jun. During courtship, landing with fluttering wingbeats associated with presence of partner and a nest-hole;... read more


    Essentially non-migratory. Some local post-breeding movements to more favourable, usually lower-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Reasonably common, if rather local, throughout most of range. Locally common in Europe and across much of Asian distribution;... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Grey-faced Woodpecker (Picus canus). 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 24 January 2020).