These “lover of grubs” are spectacular birds.

Campephilus is the genus of several large woodpeckers (12 species, 2 of which are now probably extinct.)  The name Campephilus means lover of grubs.  They (the birds) are found in Mexico, Central and South America. And previously in the United States.

The most famous is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  At about 20 inches in length it was the size of crow.  Reports of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas surfaced in 2005 but no conclusive evidence was ever obtained. The Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker is considered a subspecies and is also thought to be extinct.

Campephilus woodpeckers are known for making a rapid double-knock. Listen for the sound if you are ever in isolated forests of the southern U.S.  In this film David Attenborough calls in a Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus).

An even more spectacular woodpecker was the Imperial Woodpecker. It was up to 24 inches or so in length. The bird was once widespread and fairly common throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, from western Sonora and Chihuahua southwards to Jalisco and Michoacán.  Logging and hunting have both contributed to its demise.  Like the Ivory-billed, it needed a very large area to survive.  It fed on beetle larvae found in dead or dying trees. This article describes a search for the Imperial by famous author George Plimpton and birder Victor Emanuel.

imperial woodpecker

Imperial Woodpecker. Kaiserspecht, (Campephilus imperialis), male and female from Mexico, Museum Wiesbaden, MWNH, Naturhistorische Landessammlung

Fortunately other members of the Campephilus genus still exist.  Here are examples of four of the remaining eight species.


Up to 20 inches in length. Found in Panama, Argentina, and Trinidad.


Guayaquil Woodpecker

Guayaquil Woodpecker. Found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.


Pale-billed Woodpecker

Pale-billed-Woodpecker. About 15 inches long. Found from Mexico to Panama.


Red-necked Woodpecker

Red-necked-Woodpecker. Found in several South American countries.

Photographs by Glenn Bartley.

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