West Indian Woodpecker Melanerpes superciliaris

Robert A. Askins, Michael E. Akresh, and William K. Hayes
Version: 2.0 — Published October 29, 2020


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West Indian Woodpecker is found in all wooded habitats on Grand Cayman, but is most abundant in limestone forest, which consists of low, sparse forest and tall scrub growing on bare limestone with little soil (4). It is absent in pastures and cultivated areas with scattered trees, and uncommon in residential areas and mangrove swamps. The average height of vegetation in limestone forest is 9 m, with a few trees as tall as 18 m. Characteristic tree species include mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), manchineel (Hipponmane mancinella), cedar (Cedrela odorata), gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba), and balsam (Clusia flava). In Cuba, this species also is found in a variety of woodland habitats, but is most common in lowland plains with abundant royal palms (Roystonea regia), which are the most common site for nest cavities (40). It occurs from sea-level to ca 1000 m (23).

On San Salvador in The Bahamas, West Indian Woodpecker is largely restricted to tall coppice (dense broadleaf vegetation) (41, 42). Dominant trees and shrubs include Spanish stopper (Eugenia foetida), wild tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum), gumbo-limbo, lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum), haulback (Mimosa bahamensis), poisonwood (Metopium toxiferum), and sabal palm (Sabal palmetto). West Indian Woodpecker rimarily nests in dead sabal palms on San Salvador, and it is infrequent or absent in coppice that does not include patches of these palms. It is largely restricted to the northern end of San Salvador where tall coppice is adjacent to sabal palm groves with buttonwood trees (Conocarpus erectus) and tall red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) (41, 42).

In contrast to the situation on San Salvador, on Abaco West Indian Woodpecker frequently is found in residential areas, where it often nests in cultivated coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) (43, 44).

Recommended Citation

Askins, R. A., M. E. Akresh, and W. K. Hayes (2020). West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.weiwoo1.02