Tuesday 21 May
Great-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Great-spotted woodpecker fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Great-spotted woodpecker description
The great-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is the most common and widespread of the British woodpeckers (5). It has black and white plumage, a prominent oval-shaped white patch on each wing, a red patch under the tail; males also have a red patch on the rear of the head (2). Juveniles can be identified by their red crown (2). The main call is a sharp 'kick', which may be repeated. During spring, it can be heard drumming; this sound is produced by beating the bill on a dead branch (5).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker biology
The great-spotted woodpecker feeds on seeds, invertebrates, and occasionally bird eggs and nestlings (2). It often extracts seeds from kernels by wedging them in crevices in tree bark, which act as 'anvils'; a pile of cones often builds up under these anvils, betraying their presence (2).
Drumming, which acts as a territorial defence, is carried out by both sexes, usually in March and April (5). After a courtship display, both sexes help to excavate the nest in a tree (5). The chamber is typically 30 centimetres deep, and the oval-shaped entrance hole is around four metres from the ground (5). From mid-May to early June between four and seven white eggs are laid; the female incubates them for 16 days, after which time both parents feed the young for 18 to 21 days. Just one brood is produced a year (5).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker range
This great-spotted woodpecker is most common in southern England, although it is absent from the fens of East Anglia and from higher ground. It has a patchier distribution in Wales, southwest England and Scotland (6).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker habitat
Found in both broadleaved and coniferous woodlands and forests, the great-spotted woodpecker more recently has begun to exploit gardens and parks (5).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker status
The great-spotted woodpecker is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is a widespread and common species. Protected at all times under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (3) and included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green List (low conservation concern) (4).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker threats
The great-spotted woodpecker is not currently threatened (7).Top
Great-spotted woodpecker conservation
No specific conservation action has been targeted at the great-spotted woodpecker.Top
Find out more
For more on the great-spotted woodpecker:
RSPB great-spotted woodpecker information:
BBC Wildlife Finder:
For more on British birds:
For more information on this and other bird species:
Information authenticated by the RSPB:
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
- Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
- RSPB (2003) Pers. comm.
RSPB (2003) The population status of birds in the UK:
- Gooder, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
- Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
JNCC. Breeding birds in the wider countryside (November 2002):
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.