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Red-bellied Woodpecker-27527.jpg
Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Tribe: Dendropicini
Genus: Melanerpes
Swainson, 1832

See text

Melanerpes is a genus of woodpeckers of the family Picidae found in the New World. It is included in the tribe Dendropicini and contains 24 species. Members of the genus are mostly colourful birds, conspicuously barred in black and white, with some red and yellow.


The genus Melanerpes is included in the tribe Dendropicini, which also contains the North American genus Sphyrapicus, the sapsuckers, and the monotypic Cuban green woodpecker (Xiphidiopicus percussus).[1] The genus was introduced by the English ornithologist William John Swainson in 1832.[2] The word Melanerpes come from the Greek melas meaning black and herpēs meaning creeper.[3]


Members of Melanerpes are small to medium sized woodpeckers found exclusively in the New World. Some are West Indian endemics, and include species from Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Guadeloupe; one subspecies, the Grand Bahama West Indian woodpecker (M. superciliaris bahamensis) became extinct in the 1950s. The majority of the species are from Central and South America.[1] Most species are boldly marked in black and white, with some areas of red and yellow.[4] The beaks are long and pointed, and sometimes curved. The sexes differ in many species, both in colour and in size.[1]

Some species such as the acorn woodpecker and the yellow-tufted woodpecker are sociable, foraging in groups, communicating vocally and nesting communally. These have complex breeding systems including some non-breeding adult helpers assisting in rearing the young. Like other woodpeckers, insects form a large part of the diet, being caught on the wing in some species, but fruit is also eaten in large quantities and some species consume sap. They all nest in holes that they excavate in trees, and the red-crowned woodpecker and the Hoffmann's woodpecker are unusual in that they sometimes enter their holes backwards.[4]


The genus includes 24 species:[5]


  1. ^ a b c Winkler, Hans; Christie, David A. (2010). Woodpeckers. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4081-3504-4.
  2. ^ Swainson, William John (1831). Richardson, John (ed.). Fauna boreali-americana, or, The zoology of the northern parts of British America : containing descriptions of the objects of natural history collected on the late northern land expeditions under command of Captain Sir John Franklin, R.N.: Part 2, The Birds. p. 316. The title page gives the date as 1831 but the volume was not actually published until the following year.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ a b Gorman, Gerard (2014). Woodpeckers of the World: A Photographic Guide. Firefly Books. p. 102. ISBN 177085309X.
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Woodpeckers". World Bird List Version 6.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 5 May 2016.

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