Like true woodpeckers, piculets have large heads, long tongues to get their insect prey and zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backwards. However, they lack the stiff tail feathers that woodpeckers use when climbing trees. They are more likely to perch on a branch rather than an upright trunk.
They eat insects and grubs mainly from decaying wood. They re-use woodpecker holes for nesting, rather than making their own holes. The eggs are white, as with many hole nesters.
There are 30 species in all. It is known that they split off from mainstream woodpeckers in the middle Miocene about 15 million years ago (mya). Splits between the three genera happened about 7.9 mya.
Typically these birds have grey or dull green upperparts and dark-streaked white underparts.
- del Hoyo J.; Elliott A. & Sargatal J. (editors) 2002. Handbook of birds of the world, Volume 7: Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-22-9
- Fuchs J. et al 2006. Molecular phylogeny and biogeographic history of the piculets (Piciformes: Picumninae). Journal of Avian Biology 37(5): 487-496.