Garden Ecology: Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

The Green Woodpecker is supposedly a fairly common bird in the UK (c. 52,000 pairs) but we see it only rarely in the garden.  The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a more regular visitor and often comes to feed on the peanuts in the bird feeders.

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of the British Woodpeckers and is the size of a large pigeon.  It typically feeds on ants probing ant nests with its strong beak and long tongue.

This individual is an adult male as it has a crimson-centred moustache.  The female has a black moustache.

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It seems that the Green Woodpecker (unlike the Great Spotted Woodpecker) does not drum.  Their song is a very characteristic loud ringing laugh (click to play)

 

Audio credit: Olivier Grosselet, Xeno-canto

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Garden Ecology: Great Spotted Woodpecker

One of the most flamboyant visitors to our garden in the winter months has to be the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).  Its striking black and white plumage with vivid splashes of red are always a pleasure to see.

We often see these woodpeckers skipping around the trunks of the silver birches and they are also frequent visitors to the bird nuts for an easy meal on colder days.  They don’t stay long but we were lucky enough to have the camera ready to capture the following video footage.  The red markings on the back of the neck indicate that this is a male woodpecker.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker stays in the locality all year and you often glimpse its characteristic bouncing or undulating flight and hear its call as its travels across the garden.  They have a remarkably wide distribution throughout Europe and Asia and also into North Africa.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are omnivores, feeding on both insects and grubs as well as nuts from the feeders.  It is also reported to take the eggs and chicks of small birds.

We have not yet found out where the nest hole is located but it is reported that they maintain a territory of up to 12 acres.  We will keep our eyes peeled over the coming months.  It is always wonderful to see the baby woodpeckers with the parents later in the year but unfortunately we do find that these young woodpeckers do have a tendency to fly into the window panes and injure themselves.

References and further reading

“Birds of Britain and Europe” by Nicholas Hammond and Michael Everett (ISBN 0 7063 6040 0)

Wikipedia – Great Spotted Woodpecker ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_spotted_woodpecker )

RSPB – Great Spotted Woodpecker ( https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-spotted-woodpecker )