Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris)


French: Pic à sourcils noirs German: Bahamaspecht Spanish: Carpintero antillano

Picus superciliaris


, 1827,



Sometimes separated with other barred congeners in Centurus. Recent molecular phylogeny found this species to be sister to a clade formed by M. carolinus and nominate M. a. aurifrons#R. Race caymanensis small and small-billed, with buff tinge on upperparts and little or no black on face, formerly considered a separate species. Grand Bahama population sometimes separated as race bahamensis, on average marginally shorter-billed, slightly darker below and tending to show slightly more black behind eye, but otherwise identical to San Salvador race nyeanus, which is itself somewhat variable, so the two are more appropriately lumped. Around I of Pines, proposed races sanfelipensis (Cayo Real, in Cayos de San Felipe) and florentinoi (Cayo Largo) both considered inseparable, and both populations may now be extinct. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. s. nyeanus (Ridgway, 1886) – Grand Bahama and San Salvador (N & E Bahamas).
  • M. s. blakei (Ridgway, 1886) – Great Abaco (N Bahamas).
  • M. s. superciliaris (Temminck, 1827) – West Indian Woodpecker – Cuba, and many cays in the Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey, as well as Saetía and Moa Grande (off Holguín province), and Ávalos and Cantiles cays (Archipiélago de los Canarreos)#R.
  • M. s. murceus (Bangs, 1910) – I of Pines, Cayo Largo and Cayo Real (possibly extinct on the two cays).
  • M. s. caymanensis (Cory, 1886) – Cayman Woodpecker – Grand Cayman.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 27–32 cm; 83–126 g (superciliaris), 63–81 g (caymanensis). Male has red nasal tufts, white to buffish-white forehead and sides of... read more


    Typical “churr” call a loud “krrru”, or repeated as “krrruu-krrru-... read more


    Various types of wooded area, especially dry forest, including edges; also coastal forest, palms,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods, including beetles, orthopterans, cockroaches (Blattodea) and others, and spiders. Occasionally small vertebrates taken, e.g.... read more


    Jan–Aug; possibly 2 broods. Nest excavated by both sexes, at 4–14 m, on average c. 7 m, in dead tree, live or dead palm (... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common and widespread in Cuba and on I of Pines and offshore cays; common on Great Abaco; fairly common on Grand Cayman. Race ... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris). 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).