Helmeted Woodpecker Celeus galeatus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is thought to have a small population that is composed of small subpopulations due to the fragmentation of its habitat. Its population size is inferred to be declining owing to extensive and on-going forest loss and degradation, largely due to selective logging, as well as forest clearance due to agriculture and urbanisation. For these reasons, the species is listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The species is rare or very uncommon at all known sites, and is absent from some areas of apparently suitable habitat (Lammertink et al. 2011). It occurs at higher densities in old-growth forest, where it may reach densities of one territory per 3-5 km2 (Brooks et al. 1993, in Lammertink et al. 2020), which is assumed to equate to approximately 0.4-0.67 mature individuals per km2. In disturbed forests, densities as low as one territory per 135-210 kmhave been recorded (Lammertink et al. 2011, 2020), assumed to equate to approximately 0.010-0.015 mature individuals per km2. In Misiones, encounter rates were reported at a ratio of 1:0.18 in primary and disturbed forests, respectively (Lammertink et al. 2011); applying this ratio to the densities found in old-growth forest would produce densities in disturbed forest of 0.07-0.12 mature individuals per km2.

According to Lammertink et al. (2020), the forested area within the species's range is between 25,000 and 40,000 km2, but based on the mapped range, in 2010, there were approximately 135,000 kmof tree cover (with at least 50% canopy cover) within the range (Global Forest Watch 2020). Less than 1% of forest within the range is thought to be primary forest (Lammertink et al. 2020).

The species's population size has previously been suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals (A. Bodrati in litt. 2010, G. Kohler in litt. 2010, M. Lammertink in litt. 2010, A. E. Rupp in litt. 2010, Lammertink et al. 2012). More recently, it has been estimated to be between 400 and 8,900 individuals (Lammertink et al. 2020), and thought more likely to be larger than 2,500 mature individuals (M. Lammertink in litt. 2020). The population in Brazil is suspected to be smaller than 2,500 mature individuals (Pinto Marques et al. 2018).

Assuming a total area of habitat of 25,000-135,000 km2, that 1% of the total area of habitat has a population density of 0.4-0.67 mature individuals per km2, a further 9% has an intermediate density of 0.2-0.4 mature individuals per km2, and that the remainder of the area of habitat is occupied at densities of 0.01-0.12 mature individuals per km2, the population size is here estimated to lie between 775 and 20,259 mature individuals, rounded to 700-21,000 mature individuals. Given the species's apparent scarcity at well observed sites (M. Lammertink in litt. 2010), and preference for larger tracts of mature forest, the true population size is likely to fall towards the lower end of this range, with a precautionary best estimate here placed at 3,621 mature individuals (rounded to 3,600), based on an area of habitat of 40,000 km2 and the means of the density estimates described above.

Since the remaining habitat is composed of small, isolated patches, it is assumed that the species is fragmented into small subpopulations, each of which contains no more than 1,000 mature individuals. Density estimates suggest that there are subpopulations with more than 250 mature individuals (M. Lammertink in litt. 2020).

Trend justification
Although rates of deforestation in its range are thought to have decreased in recent years (R. Clay in litt. 2007, A. Bodrati in litt. 2010, G. Kohler in litt. 2010), this species's population is still thought to be undergoing a decline on the basis of continued habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation (Pinto Marques et al. 2018, Lammertink et al. 2020).

Over 15 years from 2004-2019, approximately 16% of tree cover with at least 75% canopy cover was lost within the species's range (Global Forest Watch 2020). The population size is therefore inferred to be declining.

Extrapolating to 2020 and scaling to 14.58 years, approximately 15% of tree cover with at least 75% canopy cover is estimated to have been lost within the species's range over the past three generations. Although the species occurs in selectively-logged forest, it occurs at higher densities in mature forest and is thought to be dependent on cavities in large trees (Lammertink et al. 2019). The population size is therefore suspected to have undergone a reduction of 10-15% over the past three generations. Assuming the rate of deforestation continues into the future, the population size is suspected to decline by 10-15% over the next three generations.

Distribution and population

This species is confined to south Brazil in São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, east Paraguay in Amambay, San Pedro, Canindeyú, Caaguazú, Alto Paraná, Caazapá, Guairá, and Itapúa (Hayes 1995, Lowen et al. 1996, Madroño et al. 1997, R. Clay in litt. 2003, Lammertink et al. 2012) and north Argentina, through much of Misiones (Chebez 1995, Bodrati 2005, Bodrati & Cockle 2006, Krauczuk 2008, Lammertink et al. 2011). In Misiones, the species has been recorded at a higher density of sites than in other parts of the range, and it has been recorded in nearly all forested areas, although this may be partly reflect the extent of ornithological fieldwork that has taken place (Bodrati and Cockle 2006, Lammertink et al. 2020). In Brazil, it is now largely restricted to small protected areas (Pinto Marques et al. 2018). It is difficult to locate except when vocalising during a brief window around sunrise (M. Lammertink in litt. 2020), and is almost certainly under-recorded (Lowen et al. 1996). In 2010, there were approximately 135,000 km2 of tree cover (with at least 50% canopy cover) within the species's range (Global Forest Watch 2020).


It occurs in lowland and montane Atlantic forest. Although it inhabits selectively logged and secondary forest, it appears to reach its highest densities in primary or mature forest (Lammertink et al. 2011, 2012). It has been recorded in relatively small and degraded forest patches, gallery forest within savanna, and tree plantations, although generally in the proximity of large tracts of forest (Chebez 1995, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, Bodrati 2005, Bodrati and Cockle 2006, Lammertink et al. 2011). Birds have been seen foraging primarily by pecking and probing in very soft decayed wood in the middle storey of the forest interior, sometimes (in winter) in large mixed species flocks  (Brooks et al. 1993, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, Lammertink et al. 2012). Nests have been found in September-November in newly-excavated holes in dead sections of laurel trees (Nectandra spp; Chebez 1994, 1995, Madroño and Esquivel 1995, J. Mazar Barnett in litt. 1999, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, Lammertink et al. 2012). Unlike other woodpecker species, it does not excavate its roosting cavities, but depends on decay-formed cavities in large trees (Lammertink et al. 2019). The species has been most frequently recorded roosting in guatambú (Balfourodendron riedelianum) and rabo duro (Lonchocarpus leucanthus) trees (Lammertink et al. 2019). Individuals have been recorded travelling over a kilometre between nests and roosts, and interacting aggressively with other cavity-nesting birds at roost sites, suggesting that roosting cavities are a scarce resource (Lammertink et al. 2019).


It is at risk from widespread and on-going deforestation, which has already caused the fragmentation of its habitat (G. Kohler in litt. 2010). Since the species depends on cavities in large trees (Lammertink et al. 2019), logging is likely to have a strong negative impact on the species. Mature grapia, guatambú and rabo duro trees with decay-formed cavities are a critical resource for the species, however, they are sought out for selective logging as prime timber trees (Lammertink et al. 2019). In Misiones, outside protected areas, forestry policies permit the logging of large trees (Cockle 2010). In Paraguay, the Atlantic forest has been degraded mainly through selective logging (Esquivel et al. 2019). Habitat degradation also results from the release of cattle into forests by ranchers during the winter (A. E. Rupp in litt. 2010). In the Chapeco region of Brazil, the construction of dams is leading to the flooding and consequent destruction of remaining forest fragments and some areas of native forest are cleared for pine plantations (A. E. Rupp in litt. 2010). Forest is also being cleared due to urbanisation, road construction and agriculture in some areas (Lammertink et al. 2011).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions and Research Underway
It is considered threatened at the national level in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina (MAyDS and Aves Argentinas 2017, Pinto Marques et al. 2018, Ministerio del Ambiente y Desarollo Sostenibile 2019). It is included in the National Action Plan for the Birds of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil (ICMBio 2017).

Populations occur in numerous protected areas throughout its range: Iguazú National Park, Cruce Caballero Provincial Park, Yaboti Biosphere Reserve (Esmeralda Provincial Park, Moconá Provincial Park, Caá Yarí Provincial Park, Reserva Natural Cultural Papel Misionero, Área Experimental y Reserva Guaraní), Urugua-í Provincial Park, Peninsula Provincial Park, Caa Porá Private Reserve, Yaguaroundí Private Reserve and Campo San Juan Protected Reserve, in Argentina (Chebez et al. 1998, Bodrati and Cockle 2006, Bodrati et al. 2010, A. Bodrati in litt 2012); Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve, San Rafael National Park, Caaguazú National Park, Cerro Corá National Park, Ybytyruzu Management Reserve, Tapyta Private Nature Reserve, Caazapá National Park, Carapá Nature Reserve, Limoy Nature Reserve, Maharishi Nature Reserve, Yguazu Nature Reserve and Itabó Biological Reserve in Paraguay (Lowen et al. 1996. Esquivel et al. 2019); and Intervales State Park, Carlos Botelho State Park, Rio Guarani State Park, Turvo State Park, Ilha do Cardoso State Park, Ipanema National Forest, Parque do Zizo Private Natural Heritage Reserve, Araucárias National Park, Ilha Grande National Park, Ilhas e Várzeas do Rio Paraná Environmental Protection Area, Sassafrás Biological Reserve, Três Barras National Forest, Volta Velha Private National Heritage Reserve and Iguaçu National Park, Brazil (Wege and Long 1995, Pinto Marques et al. 2018).

A study carried out in Misiones, Argentina, in 2011-2019, used radio telemetry to assess the ranging and use of old forests and logged forests by the species, and is expected to generate improved density and population estimates, assess forest structure requirements of the species, and provide guidelines for improving conditions for the species (M. Lammertink in litt. 2012, 2016, 2020).

Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná has used the species as a flagship in visits to rural schools in San Pedro department, Misiones, to explain how habitat loss and degradation threaten local fauna (K. Cockle in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions and Research Proposed
Survey, with the aid of tape-playback, historical localities and areas of suitable habitat to clarify distribution and status. Assess population density at sites across its range to improve the estimate for the species's population size. Monitor rates of deforestation within the species's range.

Enforce existing protected areas and increase the area of suitable habitat with protected status. Enforce legislation against deforestation in Paraguay (Esquivel et al. 2019). Promote importance and improve protection of mature forest remnants. Restore connectivity between protected areas where the species occurs. Encourage forest managers to retain large trees, especially rabo duro and guatambú trees, and to allow more selectively logged areas to become old growth (Lammertink et al. 2019).


28 cm. Inconspicuous but striking woodpecker. Bushy Celeus-like crest, nape and malar pale red. Cinnamon face. Black upperparts and lower back. Pale buff rump. Pale stripe on side of neck. Underparts barred blackish and pale cream. Female similar but without red malar. Similar spp. Lineated Woodpecker D. lineatus has black throat, breast and rump. Robust Woodpecker Campephilus robustus is larger with all-red head and neck, and has buff extending up the back. Voice Series of 3-12 strident keer notes, soft, even drumming, lasting 0.9 seconds.


Text account compilers
Wheatley, H.

Bodrati, A., Clay, R.P., Kohler, G., Lammertink, M., Mazar Barnett, J., Rupp, A.E., Cockle, K., Williams, R., Symes, A., Benstead, P., Sharpe, C.J. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Celeus galeatus. Downloaded from on 25/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/06/2022.