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Pale-crested Woodpecker
Celeus lugubris

Piciforme Order – Picidae Family

Length: 23-24 cm
Weight: 115-130 g

Pale-crested Woodpecker is a South American species resident within its range.

Adult male has dark rufous-black upperparts, finely barred whitish to pale cinnamon. Lower back and rump are pale yellow to cream-buff, sometimes washed cinnamon.
The longest uppertail coverts are dark chestnut with black subterminal bars. Tail feathers are black.
Wing coverts are blackish with whitish to pale buff edges. Flight feathers and tertials are barred rufous.

On the underparts, body is dark brown-rufous with paler creamy tinge on rear inner flanks. Thighs are creamy, barred black. Undertail coverts are black, barred rufous. Underwing is brown barred pale buff. Axillaries and coverts are creamy.

Neck is dark brown-rufous. On the head, the male has conspicuous red malar and cheek stripe. The red colour may sometimes extend to the forehead and around the eyes. Lores are brown.
The rest of the head, chin, throat and long, pointed crest are pale creamy-yellow to buffish or tinged cinnamon.
The long bill is chisel-tipped as in all woodpeckers. It is greyish to horn-coloured with paler lower mandible. Eyes are dark red or red-brown, surrounded by blue-grey eye-ring. Legs and feet are grey.

Female lacks the red malar stripe. Cheeks are brown with scaled effect.
Juvenile is similar to adults, but it shows a large blackish area on the head, and the barring is irregular on the upperparts.

We can find two subspecies:
C.l. lugubris, from E Bolivia and west centre Brazil.
C.l. kerry, from Paraguay and west centre Brazil to NE Argentina. This one is slightly larger with weight of 134 to 157 grams. It has darker plumage.

Pale-crested Woodpecker feeds primarily on ants and their eggs, larvae and pupae, by probing and digging into the bark crevices.

Pale-crested Woodpecker is usually fairly common in most parts of the range, but this range is relatively restricted to some regions of suitable habitat. Living at medium level in trees, this species is often difficult to observe.
However, the Pale-crested Woodpecker is not threatened at this moment.

Fr : Pic à tête pâle
All : Blaßschopfspecht
Esp: Carpintero Lúgubre
Ital: Picchio crestachiara
Nd: Bleekkuifspecht
Port: Pica-pau-louro


Philippe Wolfer

Marc Chrétien

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol. 7 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal – Lynx Edicions – ISBN: 8487334377

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

XENO-CANTO AMERICA – Birds sounds from the Americas


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Summary cards

Pale-crested Woodpecker’s call is a high-pitched “wee-wee-week” uttered in series of three notes when the bird is perched on tree trunk.
This species drums weakly.

Pale-crested Woodpecker frequents semi-deciduous forests, “cerrado” woodlands (Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs and shrublands), and dry “Chaco” woodlands (Specific type of deciduous woodland with thick undergrowth). It is also found in lowlands and palm-trees plantations.

Pale-crested Woodpecker is found in C Bolivia and SW Brazil, C Paraguay and N Argentina.

Pale-crested Woodpecker, as other woodpeckers, feeds on ants, their eggs, larvae and pupae of several genuses.
It forages by probing into the bark crevices, searching for ants. It also pecks and gleans on tree-trunks. It excavates the dead wood in order to reach the ants’ tunnels, and there, it catches them thanks to the sticky tongue. 
Pale-crested Woodpecker forages in the middle level of the forest.

Woodpeckers spend most of the time on tree trunks and branches, searching for food, pecking or drumming.
The Pale-crested Woodpecker drums weakly, during short sequences.

When alarmed or threatened, the Pale-crested Woodpecker raises its crest. The prominence of this crest varies according to the species and mainly with the degree of excitement of the bird.

The plumage of woodpeckers of genus Celeus is usually rather rufous, brown or creamy, probably associated to the type of habitat where they are living, mainly the shady parts of the forest.
These woodpeckers have the fourth toe shorter than the front toes, meaning that they have less need to climb vertical trunks, and they rather forage on larges branches than trunks.  

Pale-crested Woodpecker is resident in its range.

Pale-crested Woodpecker performs undulating flight with series of rapid wing beats interspersed with brief glides.

Breeding season occurs in September-November, and later in the southern parts of the range.
Pale-crested Woodpecker excavates its nest-hole in tree or digs into an arboreal nest of ants or termites. The hole is situated between 4 and 10 metres above the ground.
The nesting behaviour of this species is unknown at this moment.
Like all the hole-nesting species, eggs are white. Woodpeckers usually have short incubation, between 9 and 14 days. Both parents feed the chicks. Young usually reach the sexual maturity at one year.