Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis)


French: Pic à tête rousse German: Zimtkopfspecht Spanish: Carpintero cabecirrufo

Celeus spectabilis

P. L. Sclater and Salvin

, 1880,

Sarayacu, west Pastaza, Ecuador


Present species included C. obrieni until recent discovery of latter in the wild#R. Both taxa currently under C. spectabilis shown to differ from obrieni in having lower breast to vent (and underwing-coverts) extensively mottled and barred black on yellowish-buff vs clear pale dull yellowish-buff (3); nape, mantle and wing-coverts heavily barred black on yellow-buff, the black greatly predominating, with tertials dull chestnut vs 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 (3); tertials dull chestnut as on secondaries vs pale dull rufous-tinged yellowish-buff (2); back to uppertail-coverts darker and more orangey vs paler orangey yellowish-buff (ns[1]); bill appearing less deeply and less extensively yellowish distally, although this could be individual variation (ns); larger size (at least 1). Separate species status supported also by recent molecular studies#R,#R, which indicate that obrieni is sister to C. spectabilis.Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. s. spectabilis P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1880 – E Ecuador and NE Peru.
  • C. s. exsul J. Bond & Meyer de Schauensee, 1941 – SE Peru, extreme W Brazil (W Acre) and N Bolivia (Beni, N Cochabamba).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 26–28 cm; 111 g (exsul). Male has rufous-chestnut head and bushy crest, deep red malar patch, yellow to cream-buff patch on lower neck side and down side of... read more


    Song a loud squealing “skweeah” followed by bubbling “kluh-kluh-kluh-... read more


    Inhabits humid tropical forest, especially along rivers and on river islands. Regularly found in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on bamboo ants; few details of diet recorded to date, although probably feeds also on other insects. Forages singly or in... read more


    Rather little information available. In Peru, male and female with enlarged gonads collected in Jun, two females in breeding condition... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Rare generally; appears to be not uncommon in W Brazil. In SE Peru, 3–4 territories located in c. 150 ha of bamboo habitats... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis). 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).