Helmeted Woodpecker Celeus galeatus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its small population is suspected to have suffered a rapid population reduction owing to the extensive and on-going loss and fragmentation of its habitat. If new data suggest that the population size has been overestimated, the species may be eligible for uplisting in the future.

Population justification
This species's population is thought to number 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) and is thus placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals; however, this may well be an overestimate given the species's apparent scarcity at well observed sites (M. Lammertink in litt. 2010). This estimate equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

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 suspected to be undergoing a rapid decline on the basis of continued habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation.

Distribution and population

This species is confined to south Brazil in São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, east Paraguay in Amambay, San Pedro, Canindeyú, Caaguazú, Alto Paraná, Caazapá, Guairá, Paraguarí (three old specimens), 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 (Bodrati 2005, Bodrati & Cockle 2006, Krauczuk 2008, Lammertink et al. 2011). It is difficult to locate except when vocalising and, since it is silent for much of the year, is almost certainly under-recorded (Lowen et al. 1996). However, it is rare or very uncommon at all known sites and its status remains unclear, particularly considering the high rates of deforestation within its range, and considering its association with mature forest of which little remains in the region and the extent of which is still being reduced due to selective logging (Lammertink et al. 2011). It is currently thought to number 400-8,900 individuals, within an occupied range of some 25,000-40,000 km2 (Lammertink et al. 2012).


Although it inhabits selectively logged montane and lowland Atlantic forest, it appears to reach its highest densities in primary or mature forest (Lammertink et al. 2012). It has also been recorded in relatively small and degraded forest patches and gallery forest, although generally in the proximity of large forest tracts (Chebez 1995b, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, Bodrati 2005, Bodrati and Cockle 2006). 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, Chebez 1995b, Madroño and Esquivel 1995, J. Mazar Barnett in litt. 1999, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, Lammertink et al. 2012).


It is at risk from widespread and on-going deforestation, which has already caused the severe fragmentation of its habitat (G. Kohler 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). Habitat degradation through selective logging is also expected to be having a negative impact on the species, for example in Yaboty Biosphere Reserve (Argentina) where the species is widespread and where selective logging is permitted (K. Cockle in litt. 2010, Lammertink et. al. 2011, A. Bodrati in litt. 2012). Habitat degradation also results from the release of cattle into forests by ranchers during the austral winter (A. E. Rupp in litt. 2010). There is no evidence of interspecific competition for food with the larger D. lineatus and C. robustus, and the three species have been observed foraging together without interacting  (A. Bodrati in litt. 2012). Although competition for food appears to be avoided by different foraging techniques, increasing habitat degradation and fragmentation creates forest edge habitat which may favour D. lineatus and presumably increases competition for nest-holes (Chebez 1994, Lowen et al. 1996, R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, K. Cockle in litt. 2010). Dryocopus galeatus has, however, been recorded roosting with White-eyed Parakeets Aratinga leucophthalma in their nest cavity (Cockle 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is considered threatened at the national level in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and protected by Brazilian law. Populations occur in numerous protected areas throughout its range: Iguazú National Park, Cruce Caballero Provincial Park, Yaboty 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, Itabó Private Reserve, San Rafael National Park, Caaguazú National Park, Golondrina Private Reserve, Cerro Corá National Park in Paraguay (Lowen et al. 1996); and Intervales State Park, Ilha do Cardoso State Park and Iguaçu National Park, Brazil (Wege and Long 1995). A multiple-year study was initiated in Misiones, Argentina, in 2011 to assess by radio telemetry the ranging and use of old forests and logged forests by Helmeted Woodpecker. The project 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). Proyecto Selva de Pino Paraná is using the species as a flagship in visits to 14 rural schools in San Pedro department, Misiones, to explain how habitat loss and degradation threaten local fauna (K. Cockle in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions 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 likely to hold large populations, such as Iguazú, Iguaçu, San Rafael, Yaboty Biosphere Reserve, Urugua-í Provincial Park and Mbaracayú. Use survey data to calculate an estimate for the species's population size. Increase the area of suitable habitat with protected status. Promote importance and improve protection of mature forest remnants.


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
Benstead, P., Clay, R., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Taylor, J., Williams, R.

Cockle, K., Mazar Barnett, J., Bodrati, A., Kohler, G., Lammertink, M., Clay, R.P., Rupp, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Celeus galeatus. Downloaded from on 28/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2020.