Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Olive Woodpecker (Dendropicos griseocephalus)


French: Pic olive German: Goldrückenspecht Spanish: Pito oliváceo

Picus griseocephalus


, 1783,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Often placed with D. goertae and D. spodocephalus in a separate genus Mesopicos, sometimes including D. elliotii (with D. johnstoni); interbreeds with the first two where ranges meet. Race persimilis possibly inseparable from ruwenzori. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. g. ruwenzori (Sharpe, 1902) – E DRCongo and SW Uganda (Rwenzoris and Impenetrable Forest), Rwanda and Burundi.
  • D. g. persimilis (Neumann, 1933) – Angola, N & SC Zambia and SE DRCongo to N Malawi and SW Tanzania.
  • D. g. kilimensis (Neumann, 1926) – Tanzanian highlands: Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Meru, and mountains of N Pare, Usambara, Uluguru and Udzungwa.
  • D. g. griseocephalus (Boddaert, 1783) – extreme S Mozambique (Lebombo Mts) and E & S South Africa (E Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal S along coast to S Western Cape).
  • Descriptive notes

    20 cm; 33–51 g. Male has red hindcrown and nape feathers often with some fine black subterminal bars, grey bases often evident in worn plumage; rest of head, including... read more


    Long, slightly nasal trilled whistle of 3–4 notes, “whee-whee-whee”; “pep... read more


    Forest, evergreen thickets and dense woodland, and forest fringing watercourses, in uplands;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and their larvae, particularly ants, beetles (Scarabaeidae). Occurs singly or in pairs, often in parties of up to 6; frequently... read more


    Possibly Apr–Jun in Tanzania; breeds Feb–Sept in Zaire, Jul–Sept in Malawi, May–Jul in Zambia, Sept in Natal and... read more


    Resident; possibly some local short-distance or vertical movements.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Variably common to uncommon in most of range, but local to scarce in Tanzania; uncommon in Angola; generally common in South Africa. Densities vary... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Olive Woodpecker (Dendropicos griseocephalus). 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 14 December 2019).