Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)


Kaempfer's Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni)


French: Pic d’O’Brien German: Kaempferspecht Spanish: Carpintero de Kaempfer
Other common names: Caatinga Woodpecker

Celeus spectabilis obrieni


, 1973,

Uruçui, Piauí, Brazil


Until recently, known from only single female specimen and treated as subspecies of C. spectabilis, albeit recognizing that its significant differences in plumage, habitat and geographical location indicated possible species status. This status now confirmed with discovery of birds in CE Brazil#R, which differ from taxa under C. spectabilis in having lower breast to vent (and underwing-coverts) clear pale dull yellowish-buff vs extensively mottled and barred black on yellowish-buff (breast-line is sharply defined sooty-black to yellowish-buff, but there are a few spots of black below this, and more concealed in breast feathers) (3); nape, mantle and wing-coverts predominantly pale dull yellowish-buff (slightly paler, less orangey, than below), with broad dark barring on wing-coverts (but still with more pale than dark coloration) and a few marks on scapulars and tertials vs heavily barred black on yellow-buff, the black greatly predominating, with tertials dull chestnut (3); tertials pale dull rufous-tinged yellowish-buff vs dull chestnut as on secondaries (2); back to uppertail-coverts orangey yellowish-buff, but paler and less orangey than in spectabilis (ns[1]); bill appears more deeply and more extensively yellowish distally, although this could be individual variation (ns); smaller (at least 1). Full species status supported also by recent molecular studies#R#R, which indicate that obrieni is sister to C. spectabilis. Monotypic.


NE Brazil (S Maranhão, W Piauí, Tocantins, Goiás, SE Mato Grosso)#R#R#R#R#R#R.

Descriptive notes

26·5–38 cm; 85–105 g. Male has rufous-red head and bushy crest, broad area of brighter red in malar region, variable amount of red on upper ear-coverts and adjacent base of... read more


Loud, upslurred squeal followed by a softer bubbling chuckle, e.g. “skweeah kah-kah-kah-kah-kah” or... read more


Appears to be confined to cerrado woodland with open gallery forest and babaçu palm (Attalea... read more

Food and feeding

Diet mostly ants, especially Camponotus depressus and Azteca fasciata (both of which seem to be fond of bamboo). All... read more


Little information. Observations of fledged juveniles suggest that reproductive period apparently begins in Jun/Jul, at start of dry season... read more



Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Following collection of type specimen, in 1926, there were no further sightings for 80 years; rediscovered in Oct 1996, and has now been recorded at several sites... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N., Sharpe, C.J. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Kaempfer's Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni). 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 10 December 2019).