A stripe-backed woodpecker of Mexico and Central America, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) reaches the United States only in the brushlands and open woodlands of Texas and Oklahoma.
Nape color varies across its range from yellow-orange in the north, to red in the Yucatan, to orange from Chiapas, Mexico, to Honduras. The lower belly color varies across the range; birds in the Yucatan have lower red bellies. [All About Birds]
The Velasquez’s version (Melanerpes santacruzi) of this woodpecker is considered a separate species by some organizations, including the International Ornithological Committee. The IOC has split the species, but many other taxonomists have not, including the American Ornithological Society.
Recent genetic data indicate that the species as currently constructed is paraphyletic. The Golden-fronted, Golden-naped, Wide-bar-backed birds from the north of the range (“true” Golden-fronted woodpeckers) were shown to be more closely related to Red-bellied Woodpecker than the Red-fronted, Red-naped, Narrow-bar-backed birds from the south. It is suggested that the latter population, the Santacruzi group, be treated as a separate species, Velasquez’s Woodpecker. It is found from eastern Mexico to Nicaragua. [Wikipedia]Golden-fronted [Velasquez’s] Woodpecker Facts [All About Birds]
- The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is composed of four subspecies that differ in size, amount of barring on the tail, and the color of the nape, nasal tufts, and belly. Whereas the nape of the form found in Texas and most of Mexico is yellow to orange, it is red on the Yucatan Peninsula and orange farther south. The four forms were formerly considered different species.
- The Golden-fronted Woodpecker consumes about as much fruit and nuts as it does insects. In summer in Texas, the faces of some woodpeckers become stained purple from eating the fruit of the prickly pear cactus.
- The oldest recorded Golden-fronted Woodpecker was a male, and at least 5 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Texas.