Kaempfer's Woodpecker Celeus obrieni


Justification of Red List Category
This species was recently rediscovered after 80 years without a record, and has now been recorded at several sites across a large range. The population size has been estimated at 6,000 mature individuals and is suspected to be in decline owing to on-going habitat loss and degradation. However, a recent estimate suggests that the population size might be smaller, numbering 1,500-4,000 mature individuals (R.T. Pinheiro in litt. 2016). The species is now tentatively listed as Vulnerable, but might warrant uplisting if new information becomes available.

Population justification
A number of recent records have extended the known range of this species, which is now estimated at 6,000 mature individuals (MMA 2014). However, a recent estimate suggests that the population size might be smaller, numbering 1,500-4,000 mature individuals (R.T. Pinheiro in litt. 2016).

Trend justification
An unquantified population decline is suspected to have occurred over the last 15 years on the basis of rates of habitat loss, and its known disappearance from the type locality.

Distribution and population

Celeus obrieni was rediscovered in October 2006 after a gap of 80 years since the type specimen was collected in 1926. It was refound during surveys near Goatins in Tocantins state (Prado 2006), central Brazil, c.350 km from the type locality at Uruçui (F. Olmos in litt. 2006) in the state of Piauí. Repeat visits to the site of its rediscovery have identified eight individuals with a further four at a second site (P. Develey in litt. 2007), and a record has emerged from 2004 on the right bank of the Rio Tocantins, São Pedro da Água Branca municipality, Maranhão (Santos and Vasconcelos 2007). By 2007, at least 23 different individuals had been observed between São Pedro da Água Branca, Maranhão State in the north, the municipality of Dianópolis in Tocantins State in the south, Serra da Raposa in Maranhão State in the east, and the municipalities of Miracema do Tocantins, Pium and Miranorte in Tocantins State in the west (P. Develey in litt. 2007, A. D. do Prado in litt. 2007, Pinheiro and Dornas 2008). In 2009, it was recorded at two further sites in Maranhão, 200 km to the north (Santos et al. 2010) and also at Rio Barreiro (General Carneiro), Mato Grosso (T. Dornas in litt. 2011, In July 2010, it was recorded on the east bank of the Rio Araguaia near Registro do Araguaia, Goiás, and was also reported from Lagoa da Confusão, Tocantins (G. M. Kirwan in litt. 2010). Three individuals have been identified in collections from the state of Goiás: two dating from 1967 and one from 1988 (Hidasi et al. 2008, Dornas et al. 2009). Subsequently, a pair was found in gallery forest on the left bank of the rio do Ouro, Porangatu municipality, in the north-west of the state in 2009 (Pacheco and Maciel 2009). A number of searches have failed to locate the species in the area where the type specimen was collected. Given that it went unrecorded for many years it was assumed to have a tiny population in an extremely small range. However, recent records have increased the Extent of Occurrence of this species, although it occurs discontinuously throughout this area (A.D. do Prado in litt. 2007). The population estimate has been revised upwards as a consequence.


The type specimen and a recently mist-netted bird were from cerrado woodland with open gallery forest, riparian vegetation and babaçu palm (Attalea speciosa) forest. Within this habitat, the species shows strong association with the bamboo Guadua paniculata (P. Develey in litt. 2007, Pinheiro and Dornas 2008, Leite et al. 2013), but it avoids agricultural land (Grassi Correa 2012). The species appears to specialise in feeding on ants found on bamboo canes (B. Hennessey in litt. 2010, R. T. Pinheiro in litt. 2010). All recent records relate to sightings of single individuals or pairs/family groups. Other aspects of the species's habits are unknown and it seems to occupy markedly different habitat to its sister species, Rufous-headed Woodpecker Celeus spectabilis.


The main threats to the species are probably from habitat loss and degradation through fires, infrastructure development, pasture expansion and conversion to soya plantations (F. Olmos in litt. 2006, Gomes Marcelino et al. 2012). Habitat loss is particularly intense in Goiás and Maranhão, where about 70% or the native vegetation is already lost (Gomes Marcelino 2014). The species's habitat is highly fragmented, with patches of cerrado woodland mostly smaller than 5ha (Gomes Marcelino and Pinheiro 2014). In Tocantins, it has been reported that a major expansion in Eucalyptus cultivation will take place to meet demand for paper manufacturing, with more than 1 million hectares of cerrado expected to be converted to plantations (T. Dornas in litt. 2011). In addition to Eucalyptus and soybean, sugarcane is also a major crop in Tocantins (T. Dornas in litt. 2011). The species was recently rediscovered during surveys prior to the building of a new section of the Belém-Brasília highway (BR-010). The new road will facilitate access to the area and the expansion of soybean cultivation will probably follow. Preferred habitat (cerrados with bamboo patches), is frequently burned for cattle ranching; whether this practice destroys habitat or helps to maintain it remains poorly understood; however, in the short-term the extensive habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation that results is expected to have a negative effect on the species (B. Hennessey in litt. 2010). Only around 3% of this species's original habitat may remain (B. Hennessey in litt. 2010). A potential new threat is posed by the construction of dams for hydroelecticity (T. Dornas in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The company responsible for the construction of the BR-010 are supporting a monitoring study (P. Develey in litt. 2007). Research continues to elucidate some aspects of the species's biology. Future research will measure the home range of the species and try to estimate the total population considering the range and suitable habitats (P. Develey in litt. 2007). In 2010, there were plans to radio-tag some individuals (R. T. Pinheiro in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to ascertain the species's range, numbers, population trends and the threats it faces. In particular, survey existing protected areas within the species's range (Jalapão National Park, Jalapão State Park, Lageado State Park and Indigenous Reserve Craos) to confirm its presence. Protect remaining cerrado woodland and bamboo woodland, including small fragments with high importance for connectivity and gene flow.


c.26-28 cm. Male has rufous-red head and bushy crest with pale bill, black breast and tail, yellow to creamy-buff on hindneck to back, rump and underparts, streaked heavily with black on the scapulars, flight feathers chestnut, tail black. Similar spp differs from Rufous-headed Woodpecker Celeus spectabilis in its plain yellow back and underparts rather than showing heavy black streaking. Voice an up-slurred reeahh-kah-kah-kah-kah


Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Butchart, S., Bird, J., Hermes, C., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Develey, P., Olmos, F., Dornas, T., Kirwan, G., Alejandro, S., Pinheiro, R., Hennessey, A., Ingels, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Celeus obrieni. Downloaded from on 22/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/09/2020.