Backyard Birds

Woodpecker Finches

The Woodpecker Finches, Camarhynchus pallidus, is a species of bird in Darwin’s finch group of the tanager family Thraupidae.


It is a unique species that uses a twig, stick, or cactus spine as a tool. The tool is used as compensation for its short tongue. The finch manipulates the tool to dislodge invertebrate prey such as grubs from trees. The same tool can be used many times on many different trees. Scientists have observed that the finches may shorten the stick or spine to make it more manageable. The finches may also try various sticks or spines at one site before finding just the appropriate one that can reach and extract the prey item.

During the dry season, woodpecker finches use tools during half their foraging time, using these tools to acquire up to 50% of their prey. This means they obtain even more food via tool use than chimpanzees, the most proficient non-human primate tool users.


Distribution / Range

Woodpecker Finches occur widely in the Galapagos Islands – a group of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km west of continental Ecuador.

They can be found from sea level to high elevations.


  • BirdLife International (2004). Camarhynchus pallidus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern, S., Taborsky, M., Fessl, B. and Dvorak, M. 2002. The ecology of tool use in the woodpecker finch (Cactospiza pallida). Ecology Letters, 5, 656-664.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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