The largest woodpecker in most of its range, the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) is distinguished by its distinctively black plumage, which is glossy black throughout, with the exception of a crimson-red crown. The male and female woodpecker are hard to distinguish from each other, although the entire crown of the male is crimson red and slightly raised, forming a crest, while the female has a black forehead and a red rear crown (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
The juvenile black woodpecker is similar in appearance to the adult, but is less glossy, with a duller red crown and a paler grey throat and bill (2) (3).
The black woodpecker has a very large, pale, ivory-coloured, chisel-like bill which, along with its stocky legs, long claws and stiff tail feathers, makes it an expert excavator. It can be heard vigorously drumming on wood in long, loud bursts while trying to find a suitable site for excavation, producing a very loud and powerful sound reminiscent of machine gun fire (2) (3) (4) (5).
The piercing yellow eyes and manic, high-pitched calls of the black woodpecker have made it the villain of fairy tales throughout its range. It calls high from trees, producing a loud, whistling ‘kree-kree-kree’ (5) (6).
The flight of the black woodpecker is slow, unsteady and clumsy, and it flies with its head raised (2) (3).
- Length: 45 - 55 cm (2) (3)
- Wingspan: 67 - 73 cm (2)
- 250 - 370 g (2)