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Fr: Pic à front jaune
All : Goldmaskenspecht
Esp: Carpintero Arcoiris
Ital: Picchio frontegialla
Nd: Goudmaskerspecht
Sd: Svartmaskad spett
Port: Benedito-de-testa-amarela

Photographers :

Philippe and Aline Wolfer

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

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)

Instituto de Biología - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

XENO-CANTO – Sharing Birds sounds from around the world


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Page Family Picidae

Summary cards

Yellow-fronted Woodpecker
Melanerpes flavifrons

Piciforme Order – Picidae Family

Length: 17 cm
Weight: 50-64 gr

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is a medium-sized, brightly coloured woodpecker. It is known to fly from tree to tree, while uttering a call sounding like “benedito”, giving the bird its Portuguese name “Benedito-de-testa-amarela”.

Adult male has dark blue-black mantle, with black and white central feathers, involving broad white-streaked pattern. The plumage from back to uppertail-coverts is white, with few black spots. The uppertail-coverts show black shaft streaks.
On the upperwing, the coverts are glossy blue-black. The flight feathers are brownish-black with glossed blue edges. Secondaries and tertials show white markings.
The uppertail is black with one or two white bars on inner webs of the central pair. The outer rectrices are tipped white in fresh plumage.

On the underparts, lower neck sides and breast are greyish-yellow. The belly is red-orange, but intensity and extent of red are highly variable. Flanks to undertail-coverts are whitish with olive or buff-yellow wash, and barred black.

On the head, forehead and forecrown are yellow. Central crown to hindneck is red. There is a conspicuous yellow eye-ring, but lores, area around the eye, ear-coverts and neck side to mantle are glossy blue-black. Cheeks, chin and throat are yellow to deep golden yellow. This colour sometimes extends to upper breast.

The long black bill is chisel-tipped with slightly curved culmen. The eyes are blue-black to blackish, surrounded by broad yellow eye-ring. Legs and feet are greenish-brown.

The female has similar plumage but she lacks the red crown. She has blue-black crown to hindneck. She has shorter bill and she is smaller than male.

The juvenile is duller, browner, and less glossy, with smaller and more orange belly patch. Eyes are brown. The young male shows some red on crown and hindcrown, whereas the young female has only on mid-crown.
There are considerable variations of plumage throughout the entire range.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is very noisy. It usually drums on tall trees.
It gives strident “kikiki” and “tsilidit”. The flight call sounds like “benedito”.
When perched in small parties, we can hear series of “chlit” notes. In aggressive behaviour, it gives repeated “tweewetwee…” and “eeeuk eeeuk”.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker frequents humid forest, but it can be seen also in secondary vegetation including cane fields, palm groves and orchards, and occasionally partly burnt forest. This species occurs from sea-level up to 1800 metres of elevation.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is resident in its range. It is found in E and SE Brazil, E Paraguay and NE Argentina.  

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is reported foraging in small groups. They probe into bark crevices. This woodpecker consumes many fruits, berries and seeds and also catches insects including larger ones (Katydids and dragonflies). The chicks are fed with fruits and insects. The large food items are beaten on anvils such as stones or broken limb base high in dead tree.  
It also stores seeds and caches fruit and insects in the vicinity of the nest for next days.
This species depends almost entirely on plant material for food, which is typical of genus Melanerpes.  

As most woodpeckers, the Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is territorial and as resident in its range, it probably defends the territory all year round. But during the breeding season, nest-site and young are strongly defended by parents and several adults.
The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker is co-operative breeder with 1-4 males for 2-3 females helping and attending a single brood. They take part in nesting duties, feeding the chicks, cleaning the nest and defending the site.

Some displays are reported, involving calling “dididit”, displays and drums. They also perform head-weaving dances and males chase females. These displays are performed during the breeding season, even during or between aggressive encounters.

During the defence displays, when a predator (often aracaris or toucans) approaches, the birds fluff up their feathers and attack or follow the intruder. Several birds, males and females, can help in defence behaviour. Then, a male often acts as sentinel and drums. When the predator is a raptor, one adult enters the nest and remains with the young, while other adults are watching from nearby trees.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker has undulating flight. It is a very good and agile flier and it usually performs beautiful aerial displays.

The breeding season occurs between January and May-June throughout the range.
The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker may be solitary nester, but it also breeds in loose colonies. This species is co-operative breeder (see above in “behaviour”). They nest in cavities, usually a hole high in tree-trunk, up to 28-30 metres above the ground.

The female lays 2 white glossy eggs. The incubation lasts about 12 days. The chick fledge 5 weeks after hatching, but they sleep at nest during some days more.

Females feed the young more often than males, but a male may roost in the nest at night with the chicks. The nest is clean with frequent removing of fecal sacs. Young are fed by males and females (parents and helpers), but the feeding is often interrupted by displays between adults, and defence of the nest when a predator approaches.
Toucans are probably the most important predators, as well for nest holes as for preying on nestlings.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker feeds mainly on plant materials such as many fruits, berries and seeds. It also takes insects. The largest preys are beaten on anvils before to be swallowed or used to feed the chicks.

The Yellow-fronted Woodpecker seems to be adaptable and able to exploit secondary habitats. The species is not currently threatened but there is not information about the numbers.