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Species Guide
A photo of a Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis)
Pale-billed Woodpecker

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Campephilus guatemalensis

The Pale-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus guatemalensis, is a striking bird, measuring 35.5 to 38 cm in length. It boasts a distinctive ivory yellow bill, which it uses as a chisel, and has a light cream-buff iris, with legs of a greenish gray hue. The male's head is adorned with a red bushy crest, while the female features a black forecrown and throat.

Identification Tips

Adult males can be identified by their red head and crest, while females and juveniles have a black forecrown and throat. Both sexes exhibit black upperparts with white or buffy white stripes forming a "V" on their back. Their underparts are light yellowish buff with narrow black bars, and their wings have a unique pattern with black, dull brown, and greenish olive-yellow tones.


This woodpecker inhabits a variety of forested landscapes, predominantly lowland tropical evergreen forests. It can also be found in tropical deciduous forests, mangroves, montane evergreen forests, and pine-oak forests, avoiding deforested areas.


The Pale-billed Woodpecker is distributed from Mexico to Panama, with three subspecies: C. g. regius in eastern Mexico, C. g. nelsoni in western Mexico, and C. g. guatemalensis extending from Veracruz and the Yucatán Peninsula through Central America to western Panama.


A year-round resident, this woodpecker forages mainly in the mid- to upper levels of forests, occasionally descending to the ground to feed on stumps and fallen logs. It typically forages alone or in pairs, without joining mixed species flocks.

Song & Calls

The Pale-billed Woodpecker is known for its variable, nasal chatter or sputter, reminiscent of a squeeze toy. It also produces low whining notes, a moaning call, and a loud 'bleating' call. Its drumming is a loud, rapid, double rap, occasionally followed by a series of rapid raps.


Breeding seasons vary by latitude, with nesting occurring in large, often dead, trees. Both sexes participate in excavating the nest cavity, and the clutch typically consists of two eggs. Incubation and fledging periods, as well as parental care details, remain largely undocumented.

Similar Species

The Pale-billed Woodpecker can be confused with other woodpecker species, but its size, bill color, and distinctive markings help differentiate it.

Diet and Feeding

Its diet primarily consists of large larvae of wood-boring beetles, supplemented by termites and small fruits. The bird is known to excavate decayed wood and scale bark from dead trees in search of food.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Pale-billed Woodpecker as Least Concern, with a large range and a population of at least 50,000 mature individuals. However, the population is believed to be decreasing, and the species requires large trees for foraging, making it vulnerable to deforestation and habitat loss. In Mexico, it is listed as "subject to special protection."

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Pale-billed Woodpeckers on Birda


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