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Streak-headed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes souleyetii

Sarah Dzielski
Version: 1.0 — Published March 18, 2016


Distinguishing Characteristics

Lepidocolaptes are slender, medium sized woodcreepers with a slender, pale, slightly decurved bill. Streak-headed Woodcreeper, a typical Lepidocolaptes, is a slender brown bird with a long tail and bill. Both sexes have fine streaking on the crown, nape, and sides of the neck; the upper back also is streaked in some subspecies. The upperparts otherwise are rufous brown, with a cinnamon tinge on the wings, uppertail coverts, rump, and tail. The supercilium and narrow eyering are white or buffy white; the throat also may be whitish, or, in some subspecies, is buffy or even pale cinnamon. The rest of the underparts are buffy brown, heavily streaked with buffy white. The bill is horn colored, darker on the culmen, and slightly decurved.

Similar Species

Woodcreepers, given their similar upright posture and body shape, and generally dull plumage brown coloration, are often a difficult group to identify in the field. However, species can be identified by differences in features such as plumage pattern, body size, and the relative proportions of the body, bill, and tail.

The species that are most similar to Streaked-headed Woodcreeper are other members of the genus Lepidocolaptes, all of which share the same structure to the bill (long, slender, and slightly decurved).Spot-crowned Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes affinis), which is sympatric with Streak-headed Woodcreeper from Mexico to western Panama, is similar in size and general color pattern to Streak-headed, but Spot-crowned has a more spotted (rather than streaked) pattern on the crown, as its name suggests. More importantly, these two species typically segregate by elevation, with Streak-headed in the lowlands (below 1500 m), and Spot-crowned Woodcreepers are found in the mountains (above 1300 m); these two species rarely are syntopic.

Another similar Lepidocolaptes woodcreeper is Montane Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger), which is found in the Andes of South America. Montane Woodcreeper also has spotting instead of streaking on its crown, and the white streaks on the underparts are "crisper" (have more well defined borders) than the ventral streaks of the local populations of Streak-headed. More importantly, Montane occurs at higher elevations than Streak-headed, and so these two species rarely (if ever?) come into contact with one another.

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) is another similar species that is sympatric with Streak-headed Woodcreepers in northern Central America, though this bird tends to avoid the clearings and edge habitat preferred by Streak-headed Woodcreepers. Ivory-billled Woodcreeper is larger in size. Its bill is stouter and less decurved. The buffy streaks on the back of Ivory-billed Woodcreeper are more pronounced, and it often has a thin dark lateral throat stripe that is lacking on Streak-headed Woodcreeper.

Cocoa Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus susurrans) also overlaps with Streak-headed Woodcreeper, from Guatemala south to Panama. Cocoa Woodcreeper is much larger with a thicker, less decurved, and darker colored bill. Its streaking also is much buffier, less whitish, than the streaking of Streak-headed Woodcreeper.

Detailed Description

The following description is based on Marantz et al. (2003), and refers to nominate souleyetii; see also Geographic Variation, as well as Ridgway (1911) and Wetmore (1972):

Adult: Sexes similar. Slender, with slender, moderately long, slightly decurved bill and relatively long tail. Sides of head finely streaked with whitish buff and dark brown; sides of neck more boldly streaked, contrasting whitish buff supercilium and eyering. Forecrown, crown and nape dark brown boldly streaked with whitish buff, with long narrow streaks often continuing onto upper back. Back and wing coverts rufous olive to cinnamon brown; rump, remiges and rectrices cinnamon rufous to rufous chestnut; primaries edged brown, tipped with dusky. Throat whitish buff to pale cinnamon, contrasting with grayish olive to buffy brown underparts, the latter heavily streaked whitish buff, each streak edged blackish. Streaks on breast and sides broad and somewhat rounded at tip, those on belly and flanks narrower and more weakly edged, those on undertail-coverts much reduced. Underwing-coverts ochraceous to pale cinnamon-buff.

Juvenile: Similar to adult; differences subtle but consistent (Wolfe et al. 2009). Ventral streaking reduced or absent, "replaced in part by a few small, scattered spots of dusky"; undertail coverts pale cinnamon buff (Wetmore 1972).


Woodcreepers typically molt following breeding. Prealternate molt is not known to occur in this family. Streak-headed Woodcreeper replaces most of its flight feathers during its preformative molt, although it retains the central pair of rectrices; this is similar to the pattern of some Northern Barred-Woodcreepers (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae), but not of woodcreepers as a whole (Ryder and Wolf 2009). This retention of retrices may be due to molt suspension, or simply may represent wear. More information is needed concerning this subject (Wolfe et al. 2009).

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown, brown

Bill: pale brown or horn; basal three-quarters of mandible bluish flesh

Tarsi and toes: grayish olive green

Bare parts color data from Deignan (1936) and Dickey and van Rossem (1938).


Total length: 19-20.3 cm (Hilty 2003), 19-20.5 cm (Howell and Webb 1995), 20 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b), 21 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2010)

Linear measurements (from Ridgway 1911; subspecies compressus):

male (n = 15)

wing length: mean 95.3 mm (range 89-101 mm)

tail length: mean 80 mm (range 71.5-85 mm)

bill length (culmen): mean 29.1 mm (range 27-33.5 mm)

tarsus length: mean 18.8 mm (range 18-20 mm)

female (n = 12)

wing length: mean 90.7 mm (range 84.5-95.5 mm)

tail length: mean 77 mm (range 71.5-81.5 mm)

bill length (culmen): mean 28 mm (range 26-29.5 mm)

tarsus length: mean 18 mm (range 17-19 mm)


mean: 25.8 g (n = 5; Wiedenfeld et al. 1985)

female: mean 25.6 g (n = 5; Wiedenfeld et al. 1985)

mean: 28.5 g (range 23-31 g, n = 5, sexes combined; Russell 1964, Karr et al. 1978, Robbins et al. 1985)

Recommended Citation

Dzielski, S. (2016). Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.sthwoo1.01