Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus)


French: Pic à couronne rouge German: Rotkappenspecht Spanish: Carpintero coronirrojo

Centurus rubricapillus


, 1862,

Barranquilla, Colombia


Sometimes separated with other barred congeners in Centurus. Closely related to M. pygmaeus, and sometimes treated as conspecific, but see above. Hybridizes with M. hoffmannii in C Costa Rica. Rather variable; population of SW Costa Rica, described as race costaricensis, now considered indistinguishable from nominate; relatively large and dark birds from Margarita I, NE Venezuela and Tobago named as race terricolor, but identical individuals occur in other parts of species’ range. In addition, race paraguanae may be invalid, as some individuals in E parts of range exhibit similar characteristics. Name wagleri, originally applied to birds from Panama, is junior synonym of rubricapillus. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. r. rubricapillus (Cabanis, 1862) – SW Costa Rica E to N & C Colombia, Venezuela (except S), Tobago and coastal Guyana and Suriname.
  • M. r. subfusculus (Wetmore, 1957) – Coiba I (off SW Panama).
  • M. r. seductus Bangs, 1901 – I del Rey (in Pearl Is, off SE Panama).
  • M. r. paraguanae (Gilliard, 1940) – Paraguaná Peninsula (NW Venezuela).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 16–18·5 cm; 40–65 g. Male has pale yellow nasal tufts and lower forehead, whitish upper forehead, bright red crown becoming more orange-red on nape and... read more


    Typical calls often wavering and protracted with abrupt terminal note, e.g. “churr, churr,... read more


    Deciduous forest, edge, clearings, second growth, coastal scrub, plantations, gardens, also... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes ants, beetles, grubs, Orthoptera, other small insects, also spiders; wood-boring larvae of minor importance. Also eats many... read more


    Feb–Jul in Costa Rica and Panama, May–Jun in Colombia, May–Nov in Venezuela and Mar–Jul on Tobago; sometimes double... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. A common and conspicuous woodpecker, widespread within its range. Common to abundant in Costa Rica and Panama; common in Colombia; common in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus). 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 18 November 2019).