Lineated Woodpecker

Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus): Carpintero lineado; Linienspecht; Pic ouentou

Of the 16 species of woodpecker found in Costa Rica the Lineated Woodpecker is the biggest. It shares this billing with the look-alike Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis), a forest bird that I am unlikely to find close to home on the Turrialba Volcano slope. The Lineated has a white line (hence its name) running from the neck across the lower part of its head. Note, however, that the dark bill of the Lineated supposedly becomes progressively lighter the further south you travel in Costa Rica. This should not cause any confusion with the Pale-billed, since the latter has white on the neck but not on the head. This first photograph is from the Represa Angostura very close to Turrialba:

Male Lineated Woodpecker at Angostura; photo by John Beer

Until this week I had never seen this impressively large, red-crested woodpecker in my garden, but my wife Ches spotted one as it pounded on a dead guayabo stump near the gate. It then flew to a guarumu before heading off towards nearby Quebrada La Loca, where I once found one some 6 years ago at Villa Spoonky. (Please don’t ask me where they got that name from!) I was not able to verify the sex of our bird. This second photo is also from Angostura:

Here’s the female Lineated Woodpecker that accompanied a male at Angostura, a much lower elevation; photo by John Beer

Our house is located at some 1300 m on the volcano slope, an elevation at the top end of the range both for this species and for the Pale-billed. Female Lineated Woodpeckers lack the dark-red forecrown and malar stripe of the male, but these features are not always readily distinguishable unless you have a view in good light.

Now here’s a male seen in the southern Pacific region at close range, but with head partly in shade it’s still not easy to make out the malar stripe:

Male Lineated Woodpecker at Finca Estrella; photo by John Beer

Immature birds complicate the problem of sex if the light is not good. John took the following photograph near Ciudad Neily in the far south of the country but its excellent detail identifies it as a young male:

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Immature male Lineated Woodpecker at Coto 47; photo by John Beer

So far I have now identified 6 species of woodpecker in the garden, including the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, an uncommon migrant from the north seen here from October to March.

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