Identification Little Woodpecker (Veniliornis passerinus) is Olive-green above with bronze tones and faint buff flecks. There wing green, median coverts dotted white, flight feathers browner with some white bars. Thus, the dusky or olive below is exceptionally barred buff or white. Undertail-coverts heavily barred white, grey, or olive. Tail brown, outer feathers slightly barred buff. Face and ear-coverts dusky, neck faintly flecked pale. White moustachial line faint or absent in some races. Throat finely barred buff, Iris chestnut, Bill greyish, and Legs greyish.
Sexes differ male’s red on the crown, nape flecked grey; females lack red, crown grey dotted white. Moreover, both sexes juveniles have red (less so on female) on the white-dotted grey crown, pale iris, and irregular barring below.
Vocalizations Rising, strident ki-ki-ki or wi-wi-wi series. Single, sharp kik and squeakier kwip notes. Sharp, rising, chattering wuwuwuwiwiwi and high-pitched rattling wika-wika-wika.
Drumming Repeated, level-pitched, 1-second rolls produced.
Status Widespread and not uncommon overall, but perhaps declining locally due to deforestation.
Habitat Various forests used, including várzea, caatinga, gallery forests, bamboo, mangroves, plantations, and degraded stands, in some region’s drier savanna, gardens, and cloud forest. In Amazonian Brazil usually in riverine secondary growth.
Range South America. Occurs over a vast area from Colombia and Venezuela to Bolivia and Argentina. Sea-level to 1300m. Resident and sedentary.
Taxonomy and variation Nine races: passerinus (the Guianas, NE Brazil) has a pale bill and narrow pale barring below; modestus (NE Venezuela) yellowish above, with a clear white moustache and spotting on wings; fidelis (E Colombia, W Venezuela) also has moustache, yellowish tail barring and scalloped breast; diversus (N Brazil) has an indistinct moustache, broad barring below, males with grey forecrown; agilis (E Ecuador, Peru, N Bolivia, W Brazil) has thin moustache and superciium; insignis (WC Brazil) is the smallest race, lacks moustache, the male has grey forecrown; tapajozensis (C Brazil) is yellowish above with rufous spots; taenionotus is yellowish-green above speckled red, with broad barring below and large wing covert spots; olivinus (S Brazil, Paraguay, S Bolivia, N Argentina) is the largest race, male with red only on hind crown and nape.
Similar species Dot-fronted Woodpecker larger, more spotted above and marked on face. Other similar relatives are yellow on the nape and neck.
Food and foraging Arboreal ants, termites, beetles, and other invertebrates. Often unobtrusive, foraging at most levels, alone or in mixed-species flocks.
Also, note, that the adult female bird Little Woodpecker lacks red, the crown being grey speckled with white. This is the nominated race.
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