Today’s species – Kaempfer’s Woodpecker – is Critically Endangered. It was feared extinct until it was rediscovered in 2006 in Central Brazil – 80 years after the only previous record. For a long time, it was considered a sub-species of another woodpecker from the Andes, but it is distinct in several ways, not least its very different habitat.
The greatest threat to Kaempfer’s Woodpecker is the destruction of its Cerrado habitat. Vast tracts of indigenous Cerrado are lost each year to make way for soya cultivation, beef production, the cellulose pulp industry and infrastructural developments. The birds’ habitat is also frequently degraded by criminal arsonism carried out to justify the expansion of cattle ranching.
Recent records suggest that Kaempfer’s Woodpecker may be more numerous than currently thought. It is now known to range discontinuously through some 280 000 square kilometres, showing a strong association with Gadua bamboo. With so little known about this elusive species, there is a pressing need for further surveys to determine the full extent of its range and to estimate its population size.