Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Woodpecker (Dendropicos spodocephalus)


French: Pic spodocéphale German: Graukopfspecht Spanish: Pito gris oriental
Other common names: Eastern Grey Woodpecker

Dendrobates spodocephalus


, 1850,

West Africa; error = Shewa, southern Ethiopia


Often placed with D. goertae and D. griseocephalus in a separate genus Mesopicos, sometimes also including D. elliotii (with D. johnstoni); hybridizes with the first two where ranges meet. Often treated as conspecific with D. goertae, but differs in its mid-grey vs whitish-grey forehead, head sides, breast and flanks (2); large crimson vs small orange or scarlet belly patch (2); little or no white barring on primaries, wing-coverts and undertail (2); more golden back (ns[1]); and hybridization zone where ranges meet (at least 1). Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. s. spodocephalus (Bonaparte, 1850) – E South Sudan and W & C Ethiopian Highlands.
  • D. s. rhodeogaster (G. A. Fischer & Reichenow, 1884) – highlands of C & S Kenya and NC Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    20 cm; 43–52 g. Male has red hindcrown and nape, sometimes some grey feather bases visible when worn; entire rest of head grey, including forehead, forecrown and... read more


    Series of “wik” notes, also irregular series of “weeka” in interactions, very like D. goertae... read more


    Moist forest, forest edge, and riverine forest, in highlands, up to at least 3300 m.

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes Geophilidae centipedes, lepidopteran pupae and larvae. Found singly or in pairs at middle levels and on ground. Pecks at... read more


    Season Aug–Apr in Ethiopia; breeds in most months in Kenya and N Tanzania, peak in Apr–May and Jul–Oct. Nest-hole in tree... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally quite common within its limited range. Quite common in Kenya. Present in several protected areas, e.g. Mt Kenya, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Grey-headed Woodpecker (Dendropicos spodocephalus). 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 25 February 2020).