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Great Spotted Woodpecker

From Opus

Dendrocopos major

Picoides major


[edit] Identification

L. 23-26 cm (9-10ΒΌ in)
Ws. 38-44 cm

  • Glossy black upper parts
  • White on the sides of face and neck
  • Large white shoulder patch
  • Barred black and white flight feathers
  • Three outer tail feathers barred
  • Buffish white under parts
  • Crimson abdomen and undertail coverts
  • Slate black bill
  • Greenish grey legs

The male has a crimson spot on nape, which is missing on the female. Immatures also have no nape spot, but the crown is crimson.

[edit] Similar Species

Similar to the the smaller Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

[edit] Distribution

Juvenile. Photo by Andy BrightHertfordshire, England
Juvenile. Photo by Andy Bright
Hertfordshire, England

One of the most widespread and abundant of the spotted woodpeckers, breeds throughout Britain, most of Scandinavia except the far north and the highest mountains, throughout Europe from Iberia (although scarce in southern Spain) to northern Greece and east to Kamchatka, Sakhalin, Japan, Korea and China.

Also breeds on the Canary Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily and isolated populations in the Caucasus and in parts of southern Greece and northern Turkey, in Morocco and northern parts of Algeria and Tunisia. Further east the southern limits of range are reached in north-east India, Vietnam and Hainan.

Resident throughout range but may be irruptive in the north.

Vagrants recorded in Iceland, the Faroes and Ireland.

[edit] Taxonomy

About 14 races are recognised differing slightly in overall size, bill size and colour of underparts. However there is much intergradation in mainland races and also variation within races.

Typically northern races are larger with shorter, stouter bills and whiter underparts. North African races mauritanus and numidus are cream below with a bold chest band, black at the sides and red in the centre. Two Canarian races, canariensis from Tenerife, creamy-buff below and thanneri from Gran Canaria more greyish.

[edit] Subspecies

FemalePhoto by canonman77Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, South Yorkshire, UK, May 2009
Photo by canonman77
Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, South Yorkshire, UK, May 2009

There are 14 subspecies[1]:

  • D. m. major:
  • D. m. pinetorum:
  • D. m. harterti:
  • D. m. hispanus:
Photo by IanFCowpen Bewley Woodland Park, Billingham, Cleveland, UK
Photo by IanF
Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, Billingham, Cleveland, UK
  • D. m. canariensis:
  • D. m. thanneri:
  • D. m. mauritanus:
  • D. m. numidus:
  • D. m.r poelzami:
  • Transcaucasia and southern Caspian region
  • D. m. brevirostris:
  • D. m. kamtschaticus:
  • Kamchatka Peninsula and northern coast of Sea of Okhotsk
  • D. m. japonicus:
  • Eastern Manchuria, Sakhalin, Kuril Islands, Korea and northern Japan
  • D. m. cabanisi:
  • D. m. stresemanni:

[edit] Habitat

Deciduous, coniferous or preferably mixed woodland and forest, parks and orchards, sometimes, especially in winter, in large gardens.

[edit] Behaviour

FemalePhoto by MaliLittlehempston, Devon, June 2013
Photo by Mali
Littlehempston, Devon, June 2013

[edit] Diet

Although the diet usually consists of insects and their larvae, woodpeckers are not averse to preying on young birds in the nest and will smash their way into nest boxes to do this. In areas where woodpeckers are known to be active, a protective sheet of metal may be fitted to the entrance of the box.

Conifer seeds form an important part of the winter diet, particularly in Northern Europe. Cones may be taken to an 'anvil' to assist in the removal of seeds. The 'anvils' may be a hard surface, on which the cone is balanced, or a crevice, either natural, or one which they have prepared themselves, by cutting back the bark to create a crack.

[edit] Vocalisation

The drumming sound is made by the male, using a dead dry tree that generates a good volume, to attract a female. The sound can travel over hundreds of metres in favourable conditions. Feeding uses a much less rapid pecking action and the quieter sound generated can only be heard at close quarters.

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from
  2. Woodpeckers of Europe: A Study of the European Picidae. Gerard Gorman. ISBN 1-872842-05-4
  3. BWPi

[edit] External Links


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