Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae)


French: Pic goertan German: Graubrustspecht Spanish: Pito gris occidental
Other common names: African Grey Woodpecker

Picus Goertae

Statius Müller

, 1776,



Often placed with D. spodocephalus and D. griseocephalus in a separate genus Mesopicos, sometimes also including D. elliotii (with D. johnstoni)#R; hybridizes with the first two where ranges meet; often treated as conspecific with D. spodocephalus (which see). Races intergrade. Proposed races agmen (tree-savanna belt from Gambia S to Liberia and across to EC Sudan), centralis (savanna from Cameroon to W South Sudan and W Kenya) and oreites (highlands of C Cameroon) all considered inseparable from nominate. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. g. koenigi (Neumann, 1903) – Sahel zone from EC Mali E to W & S Sudan.
  • D. g. goertae (Statius Müller, 1776) – SW Mauritania and Senegambia E to South Sudan and W & C Kenya, and S to NE DRCongo, Rwanda and NW Tanzania.
  • D. g. abessinicus (Reichenow, 1900) – E Sudan, Eritrea and N & W Ethiopia.
  • D. g. meridionalis Louette & Prigogine, 1982 – S Gabon to NW Angola (Cabinda, possibly S to Malanje), and SC DRCongo.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 20 cm; 40·5–52·5 g. Male has grey forehead and forecrown, red hind­crown and nape sometimes with grey feather bases showing on hindcrown; rest of... read more


    Series of 20–30 “wik” notes as long-distance call; irregular series of “... read more


    Inhabits woodland, wooded grassland and pasture, riverine woodland, thickets with larger trees,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Ants, termites (Isoptera), beetle larvae, other insects; also observed hunting crabs among aerial roots of mangroves, and taking nuts of... read more


    Dec–Jun in W of range, from Oct in Sierra Leone, Jan–Mar in Nigeria, Dec–Feb and Jul–Sept in Zaire, and Feb–... read more


    Mostly resident. Some movement in non-breeding season; recorded in Mauritania at Atar, well N of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to common, and widespread. Commonest woodpecker in Senegambia; common in Sierra Leone. Uncommon in Liberia, estimated population 2000... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae). 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 9 December 2019).