Great Spotted Woodpecker

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    The Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is about the size of a starling. It is widespread across Europe, except for Ireland and the very northern edge of Scandinavia.


    Like other woodpeckers, this species has a thick pointed bill, graduated tail, “reverse” toes, and undulating flight, with periodic bursts of quick wing-beats. In flight, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are particularly striking. It has black upperparts and crown; large white shoulder patch; white forehead, cheeks, breast, and upper belly; reddish lower belly and undertail coverts; black bill; greenish-gray legs.

    There is a black X shaped pattern on the side of the head that extends toward the chest. Males and females are very similar, but the male alone has a little spot of red on the nape. The female has a black nape. Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers have a lot of red on the cap.


    The Great Spotted Woodpecker tends to feed towards the tops of the trees. It takes a wide variety of animal and vegetable food: wood-boring beetle larvae, caterpillars, seeds, and nuts.


    The call is an excited “chik,” sometimes uttered many times in succession when the bird is alarmed. In spring, males have a very loud, rapid drum (up to 40 times a second), faster than any other woodpecker. It is very far-carrying and characteristic.

    Nesting Behaviour

    The Great Spotted Woodpecker has a preference for birch, and particularly for decaying birch of more than 28 cm diameter at breast height, but also excavates his nests in living trees. In general, he is much less dependent on rotten trees than other woodpeckers. This species has become increasingly common in towns and gardens.

    The young are very noisy in the nest when well-grown, and the adults are easy to follow as they carry food; nest location, therefore, is not difficult. Old nesting holes often host other species: starlings are the most frequent, but tits, tree sparrows, and flycatchers also use them. It lays a clutch of 4 – 6 eggs in late spring. The young leave the nest 20 – 24 days after hatching, and the brood is then split between the two parents, with each taking responsibility for half the youngsters.

    Video Credits: BTOvideo
    Image Credits: ginger


    1. Richard Porter, Simon Aspinall – Birds Of The Great East
    2. Michael Eppinger – Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe
    3. Hans Winkler, David A. Christie – Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World
    4. Dominic Couzens, Steve Young – The Complete Back Garden Birdwatcher
    5. Mark Golley – The Complete Garden Wildlife Book
    6. David L. Hawksworth, Alan T. Bull – Vertebrate Conservation and Biodiversity
    7. J.T.R. Sharrock – The Atlas Of Breeding Birds In Britain And Ireland
    8. Octopus Books – Garden Bird Confidential: Discover The Hidden World Of Garden Birds


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