Great-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
|Size||Length: 23-26 cm (2)|
Wingspan: 38-44 cm (2)
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).
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).
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).
Found in both broadleaved and coniferous woodlands and forests, the great-spotted woodpecker more recently has begun to exploit gardens and parks (5).
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).
The great-spotted woodpecker is not currently threatened (7).
No specific conservation action has been targeted at the great-spotted woodpecker.
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:
- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Invertebrates: 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):