Ochraceous piculet (Picumnus limae)

GenusPicumnus (1)
SizeLength: 10 cm (2)

The ochraceous piculet is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The ochraceous piculet (Picumnus limae) is one of the smallest and least studied woodpeckers in the world. This tiny, elusive bird has rather dull brown upperparts and ear coverts, and a black crown dotted with white (3).  The underparts of the ochraceous piculet appear dark grey or dirty white (3). The male ochraceous piculet is easily distinguishable from the female due to its red forecrown (3).

The ochraceous piculet can be identified by its voice, which is a high pitched series of “sirr-sirr-sirr-sirr” notes (3).

The ochraceous piculet is known from several regions in the north-eastern part of Brazil. These include the Serra de Ibiapaba, Serra do Baturité and Serra do Arataruai all in the north-central Ceará state, and in parts of the eastern Rio Grande do Norte state (3).

Although primarily an inhabitant of semi-deciduous hillside forests, up to 1,000 metres in altitude, the ochraceous piculet is also able to survive in degraded forest, abandoned orchards and urban areas (3).

The ochraceous piculet has not been studied in great detail and so little is known about this elusive bird. However, it can be assumed that much of its biology is similar to that of other woodpeckers.

All woodpeckers are able to climb tree trunks and move along branches with ease, due to their ‘zygodactyl’ feet, which have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards, allowing the bird to have a firm grip (4).

Woodpeckers typically use their long, stout bills to excavate holes in trees in which to roost and nest (4) (5). This powerful bill is also used to dig into the bark to find wood-boring insects on which to feed. Woodpeckers also eat insects plucked off the tree surface, and use their long, sticky tongues to probe holes to find prey (5).

The forest habitat of the ochraceous piculet is being reduced due to agricultural expansion, particularly coffee plantations, as well as by grazing and forest fires (3). This is occurring to such an extent that only one percent of the original forests in the Serra do Baturité (the region in which the majority of the population is found) remains (3). Development in this area for holiday homes is also damaging the natural habitat, although the ochraceous piculet is fortunately able to survive in some urban areas (3).

In 1991 the area of Serra do Baturité was made an environmental protection area. However, the effectiveness of this protection is not clear (3). There are currently no other specific conservation measures known to be in place for the ochraceous piculet.

Find out more about how coffee plantations destroy ochraceous piculet habitat:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (Eds.) (2002) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 7: Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  4. Allaby, M. (2009) A Dictionary of Zoology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Primack, R.B. and Corlett, R.T. (2005) Tropical Rainforests: An Ecological and Biogeographical Comparison. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.