Scarlet-breasted woodpecker

   ›      ›   Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius

The scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) belongs to the family of sapsuckers and woodpeckers, the Picidae.

The scarlet-breasted woodpecker species is distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. These woodpecker species were earlier considered conspecific with D. pernyii. These woodpeckers are polytypic species.
Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Scarlet-breasted Woodpecker Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) is a medium-sized woodpecker, measuring 17 to 20 cm in length and weighing 20 to 35 grams. These species are sexually dimorphic.

These woodpeckers have black mantle, back and wings. The wings have a large white patch and some white spots and bars. The uppertail is black and the outer feathers have white barring. The undertail is barred black and white.

The crown is black and the forehead is buff-white. The males have scarlet patch on the nape. The chin, face and throat are whitish. The central breast has a scarlet patch. The lower breast and the belly are dirty-white with blackish streaks. The vent region is scarlet.

The bill is strong and pointed. The irises are blackish. The legs and feet are gray. The call of these species is a loud, rapid "chip..chip..chip" or "tchick..tchick" sound.
Birds of India - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius
1.Indian birds - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius by Francesco Veronesi

Indian birds - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius
2.Birds of India - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius by Mark Gurney

Birds of India - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius
3.Indian birds - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius by Ron Knight

Indian birds - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius
4.Birds of India - Image of Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Dryobates cathpharius by Dibyendu Ash

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These scarlet-breasted woodpecker species are distributed in India (northeast), Nepal, Bhutan, China (southeast Tibet) and Myanmar.

In India, these species are distributed in the states of Sikkim, northmost West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

The nominate subspecies D. c. cathpharius is distributed in central and east Nepal, Bhutan and India (Sikkim, northmost West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh).

The subspecies D. c. ludlowi is distributed in southeastern Tibet (China). The subspecies D. c. pyrrhothorax is distributed in India (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram) and western Myanmar.

Ecosystem and habitat

These scarlet-breasted woodpecker species have high forest dependence. They normally occur in altitudes from 1200 to 3000 meters.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these woodpecker species include tropical and subtropical moist montane forests, broadleaf evergreen forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests and deciduous forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these scarlet-breasted woodpecker species consists mainly of insects. Wood-boring insects, insect larvae, spiders, beetles and nectar are their primary food.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these species is during April and May in most of their range. These species are mostly monogamous. They excavate nest holes in tree trunks. The clutch contains 2-4 white eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

These scarlet-breasted woodpecker species are non-migratory resident birds. The populations in the higher altitudes descent to the lower levels in winter.

Post breeding, the resident juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. Within their range they may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Scarlet-breasted woodpecker - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Dryobates cathpharius
  • Species author: (Blyth, 1843)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Picus (Dendrocopus) cathpharius Blyth, 1843
  • Family: Picidae › Piciformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Scarlet-breasted woodpecker, Chinese: 赤胸啄木鸟, French: Pic à plastron rouge, German: Scharlachbrustspecht, Spanish: Pico pechirrojo occidental, Russian: Краснобрюхий дятел, Japanese: ヒムネアカゲラ
  • Other names: Scarlet-breasted Woodpecker
  • Distribution: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, insect larvae
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be stable.

In most of its range, this species is reported to be generally uncommon. The generation length is 5.2 years. Its distribution size is about 601,000

Habitat alteration and destruction, deforestation and human intrusions and disturbance are the main threats that are endangering the survival of these woodpecker species.

IUCN and CITES status

The scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Dryobates cathpharius
Species:D. cathpharius
Binomial name:Dryobates cathpharius
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) is closely related to the crimson-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates pernyii), lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor) and the downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens).

The three recognized subspecies of the scarlet-breasted woodpecker (Dryobates cathpharius) are: D. c. cathpharius (Blyth, 1843), D. c. ludlowi Vaurie, 1959 and D. c. pyrrhothorax (A. O. Hume, 1881).
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1.Image source:,_India.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 5/6/18
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Mark Gurney | License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 as on 5/6/18
3,Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Ron Knight | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 5/6/18
4.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Dibyendu Ash | License: CC BY-SA 4.0 as on 5/6/18
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