Proposal (249) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Celeus obrieni to Kaempfer's Woodpecker


Until recently the only known specimen of Celeus obrieni was a female collected by Emil Kaempfer on 16th Aug 1926 at 'Urussuhy' on the Rio Parnáiba, northeast Brazil. On 21st Oct 2006 Advaldo Dias do Prado and co-workers mist-netted and photographed a male of this species at Goiatins, in the state of Tocantins, some 300 km from Uruçuí. This is described at


The 'Urussuhy' of Kaempfer's label is now a town, Uruçuí (07° 14'S, 44° 33'W), in the state of Piauí. The note describing the taxon as Celeus spectabilis obrieni(Short, 1973) states that it is known only from the type locality, described as 'dry forested country.'


The present English name of Celeus obrieni is Caatinga Woodpecker. This name was proposed in Whittaker & Oren (1999), who suggested it because the area in northern Brazil where the holotype was collected 'is extremely arid. There the typical dominant habitat is dry cerrado intermixed with caatinga, a typically arid scrub with stunted, often thorny trees with many cacti and other succulents (Novaes 1992).' The authors went on to say 'the type locality is found in the caatinga endemic centre of Northeastern Brazil'. However, Novaes was not working in the area of the present town of Uruçuí but at what is now the Estação Ecológica de Uruçuí-Una (08° 50'S, 44° 10'W), 180 km south-southeast of Uruçuí. The E.E. Uruçuí-Una is close to the area of transition between cerrado and caatinga but the middle and upper Rio Parnaíba, where Kaempfer collected Celeus obrieni is entirely in the cerrado biome as can be seen on the attached map (ask Pacheco or Remsen for pdf). There is no caatinga at Kaempfer's Uruçuí.


The bird captured this year near Goiatins was found in cerrado, as can be seen in the photograph on the above-mentioned website. The predominant habitat in this part of Tocantins is cerrado with no caatinga.


The name Caatinga Woodpecker is inaccurate and misleading. The species was given the Portuguese name pica-pau-do-parnaíba, because Uruçuí is on the Rio Parnaíba, and Parnaíba Woodpecker has been suggested as the English name. However, since the rediscovery of Celeus obrieni, this name is also inaccurate because the new locality lies in the Tocantins, not the Parnaíba river basin. We suggest Kaempfer's Woodpecker in honor of the person who collected the only example known for 80 years.


Literature Cited

Novaes, F. C. 1992. Bird observations in the state of Piauí, Brazil. Goeldiana Zool. 17:1-5.

Short, L. 1973. A new race of Celeus spectabilis from eastern Brazil. Wilson Bull. 85(4): 465-467.

Whittaker, A. & D. C. Oren. 1999. Important ornithological records from the Rio Juruá, western Amazonia, including twelve additions to the Brazilian avifauna. Bull. B.O.C. 119(4):235-260.


José Fernando Pacheco, Jeremy Minns, Luis Fábio Silveira & Fabio Olmos

December 2006




Comments from Remsen: "YES, for reasons outlined above.


Comments from Stiles: "YES, the arguments of Pacheco et al. are convincing. Regarding whether obrieni is a species or merely a very distinctive race, it seems best to go with species status for now with a note stating "possibly a well-marked subspecies of...".


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - Again, I do not feel strongly about this. Given how little the current name has been used, it seems the right time to "fix" an inaccurate name. It would have been nice to choose something other than a patronym though."


Comments from Robbins: "YES. Given that Cream-colored and Cream-backed Woodpecker English names are occupied (either of these would have been appropriate for this taxon given the diagnosis of Short), there really isn't a good alternative to using Kaempfer's for this woodpecker (regardless of taxonomic rank; given that the photos of the rediscovered individual closely match the description of the holotype, I seriously doubt that obrieni is either the result of hybridization or aberrant individuals). Thus, I vote "yes" for changing the English name of Celeus obrieni."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES". There really aren't any obvious English names that relate to morphology, geography, or habitat, so honoring the contribution of Kaempfer seems most appropriate. By the way, my understanding is that a pair of these birds have since been observed/netted and tape recorded, which would seemingly support the decision to recognize obrieni as a valid taxon rather than a hybrid or mutant of some type."


Comments from Nores: "YES. Me parece bien en cambiar el nombre de Caatinga Woodpecker ya que no es una especie de la caatinga, pero preferiría no poner nombres de personas. Como es un ave del cerrado, podría llamarse Cerrado Woodpecker."