Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Scarlet-breasted Woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius)


French: Pic à plastron rouge German: Scharlachbrustspecht Spanish: Pico pechirrojo occidental
Other common names: Crimson-breasted Woodpecker (when lumped with D. pernyii)

Picus (Dendrocopus) [sic] cathpharius


, 1843,



Previously placed in Dendrocopos or Picoides. Recent molecular analyses found this species (with D. pernyii) to be closest to D. minor, these also being close to D. pubescens#R. Hitherto considered conspecific with D. pernyii, but differs in red of crown extending broadly onto nape around rear ear-coverts (not restricted to hindcrown) and being lighter in shade (scarlet vs crimson; also on breast) (3); upper belly streaked black-and-buff vs all black (3); narrower black malar, especially distally (1); slightly smaller size (e.g. effect size for tail −1.58; score 1). Proposed race cruentipectus (from Lushai Hills, in Mizoram) included in pyrrhothorax. Three subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. c. cathpharius (Blyth, 1843) – WC Nepal E in foothills to Arunachal Pradesh.
  • D. c. ludlowi Vaurie, 1959 – SE Tibet (S Tsangpo Valley).
  • D. c. pyrrhothorax (A. O. Hume, 1881) – NE India S of R Brahmaputra (Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram) and W Myanmar (W of R Chindwin).
  • Descriptive notes

    17–19 cm; 23–35 g. Male has buffish-white forehead with indistinct dark central line, black crown, red nape, hindneck and rear part of sides of neck; white lores... read more


    Loud monotonous “chip” or “tchick”; also very short, fast descending rattle... read more


    Broadleaf evergreen and deciduous forest with oaks (Quercus), rhododendron and chestnut (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and their larvae; nectar. Usually found singly, sometimes in pairs or, very occasionally, in mixed-species flocks. Often forages on... read more


    Apr–May in W of range. Nest-hole in tree, but no details known. Clutch 2–4 eggs. No other information.


    Some altitudinal movement seems possible, but no details available.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally fairly common to uncommon throughout range. Frequent in Nepal, Bhutan and NE India; scarce to uncommon elsewhere. Global... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Scarlet-breasted Woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius). 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).