Picus (bird)

Picus is a genus of birds in the woodpecker family. It has representatives in Europe, Asia and North Africa. The genus name is Latin for "woodpecker". The genus Picus was erected by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae.

Grünspecht Picus viridis.jpg
A female European green woodpecker (Picus viridis)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Tribe: Picini
Genus: Picus
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Picus canus

see list



These are large woodpeckers, typically with green upperparts. They are found in forests or more open woodland, and lay their white eggs in a tree hole nest, typically on a bed of wood chips. Picus woodpeckers are primarily insect eaters, with several species specialising in taking ants or termites. Some species will also consume fruit or eggs. Insects are captured by a rapid outward flick of the long tongue and gummed to its tip by sticky saliva. This genus is less completely arboreal than some other woodpecker groups, and its members often feed on the ground, attacking anthills or termitaries.


The genus Picus was introduced in 1758 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae.[2] The genus name is the Latin word for a woodpecker. Picus was a figure in Roman mythology, the first king of Latium who was changed into a woodpecker by the sorceress Circe.[3] Of the 13 species in the genus listed by Linnaeus, the English naturalist William John Swainson designated the European green woodpecker (Picus viridis) as the type species.[4]

The genus contains 13 species:[5]

Image Common Name Scientific name Distribution
  Lesser yellownape Picus chlorolophus India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka eastwards to Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
  Crimson-winged woodpecker Picus puniceus Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand.
Streak-breasted woodpecker Picus viridanus southeastern Bangladesh to central Malay Peninsula.
  Laced woodpecker Picus vittatus Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
  Streak-throated woodpecker Picus xanthopygaeus Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
  Scaly-bellied woodpecker Picus squamatus Afghanistan, Iran, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.
  Japanese green woodpecker Picus awokera Japan.
  European green woodpecker Picus viridis Europe south from southern Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Asia Minor, northern Iran and south-west Turkmenistan.
  Iberian green woodpecker Picus sharpei Europe
  Levaillant's woodpecker Picus vaillantii Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in northwest Africa
Red-collared woodpecker Picus rabieri Cambodia, China, Laos, and Vietnam.
  Black-headed woodpecker Picus erythropygius Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  Grey-headed woodpecker Picus canus Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, as well as a wide belt south of the boreal coniferous forests across Asia all the way to the Pacific coast, Sakhalin and Hokkaidō
Sumatran woodpecker Picus dedemi Indonesia

Former speciesEdit

The following were formerly included in Picus, but are now placed in Chrysophlegma.

An extinct woodpecker has been described from a fossil of a left tarsometatarsus dating from late Miocene. It may belong to this genus and has been given the binomial name Picus peregrinabundus.[6]


  1. ^ For instance: John GouldThe Birds of Great Britain (vol. 3 (1873), Plate 74) for the European green woodpecker: Gecinus viridis. See also: Iberian green woodpecker, originally named Gecinus sharpei.
  2. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 112. |volume= has extra text (help)
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Swainson, William John (1820). Zoological illustrations, or, Original figures and descriptions of new, rare, or interesting animals. Volume 1. London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; and W. Wood. Plate 4 text. |volume= has extra text (help)
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2020). "Woodpeckers". IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  6. ^ Kessler, Jenő (Eugen) (2016). "Picidae in the European fossil, subfossil and recent bird faunas and their osteological characteristics". Ornis Hungarica. 24 (1): 96–114. doi:10.1515/orhu-2016-0006.