Neotropical Birds
Version  1.0
This is a historic version of this account.   Current version

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker Melanerpes cruentatus

Kara Jones
Version: 1.0 — Published November 25, 2014



Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers primarily forage in the canopy; at one site in central Peru, the mean foraging height was ca 25–30 m above the ground (Pearson 1971). Skull morphology and small cranial muscle attachment sites indicate that they are not strong excavators (Leonard and Heath 2010) and thus primarily obtain insects through gleaning and flycatching (Johns 1991, Robinson 1997).

Short (1970) described several displays by adults within a group:

Wing-Spreading Display: The wings are opened and held fully extended over the back for one to three seconds, and then are returned to the normal folded position.  This display is performed in several contexts: by a woodpecker that alights close to another individual; less frequently, also may be given in this context by the woodpecker that already was perched; by a bird that approaches another while hitching along a tree (perhaps especially when suddenly appearing from the other side of the tree); and by a bird that alights at the entrance to a nest cavity.

Bill Directing-Head Turning Display: This is considered to be an agonistic display. One bird rapidly thrusts its bill towards a bird perched nearby. The other bird may respond by turning its body away from the displaying bird.

Bowing Display: One bird lowers body and beak parallel to the perching surface. May be a conciliatory display. See Short (1970, Figure 3) for drawings of the Bowing Display sequence.


The average home range size at one site in southeastern Peru is 14 ha (Terborgh et al. 1990).

Sexual Behavior

Poorly known, for such a common and conspicuous species. Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers are cooperative breeders and nest semicolonially. Short (1970), for example, observed three active nests within 75 m of one another, with at least one adult attending all three nests. The mating system within each such group has not been documented, however. The breeding system of Yellow-tufted Woodpecker may be variable, as there also are observations of no more than a single pair attending a nest (Greeney et al. 2004).

Social and interspecific behavior

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker is highly social, and almost always is encountered in small groups of 3-11 or so individuals (Short 1970, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b, Hilty 2003).

Aggressive interactions for nesting cavities have been observed between this species and other cavity nesters, such as Black-tailed Tityra (Tityra cayana) (Robinson 1997).


Little information.

Recommended Citation

Jones, K. (2014). Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.yetwoo2.01
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