Green woodpecker

The green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in the UK, the other two — woodpeckers Great and Small. It has a large body, strong and short tail. It is green on the top with a pale belly, bright yellow rump, and red on top. Green woodpeckers are distinguished by undulating flight and loud laughter.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Green woodpecker

Photo: Green woodpecker

Green woodpeckers are part of the «woodpecker» – Picidae, which consists of woodpeckers, of which there are only three in the UK (large-spotted woodpeckers, smaller-spotted woodpeckers, green woodpeckers).

Video: Green woodpecker

Along with the larger and less visible woodpeckers and seaweeds, the green woodpecker managed to cross the land bridge between Britain and mainland Europe after the last ice age before the waters closed permanently to form the English Channel. Six out of ten woodpecker species in Europe failed to pass and were never seen here.

Interesting fact: According to various translations, from Greek and Latin, the meaning of the word “green woodpecker” is very simple: pikos means “woodpecker” and viridis means “green”: a rather uninteresting direct translation, but, nevertheless, in substance.

It has green upperparts, paler yellowish underparts, a red crown and whisker band, the males have a red belly and the females are all black. The length of the green woodpecker is 30 to 36 cm with a wingspan of 45 to 51 cm. The flight is undulating, with 3-4 wing beats followed by a short glide when the wings are held by the body.

It is a shy bird that usually attracts attention with its loud noises. The woodpecker makes a nest in a tree; because the beak is relatively weak, it is only used for pecking in soft wood. The animal lays four to six eggs, which hatch after 19-20 days.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a green woodpecker looks like

Photo: Green woodpecker
Author: Medvedeva Svetlana (@msvetlana012018)

The green woodpecker is much larger than its counterparts. It is the largest woodpecker in the UK with a dense and short tail. In terms of color, it is primarily green, which is reflected in the name, and has a distinctive red crown. The tail, unlike other woodpeckers, is somewhat short and has a thin yellow-black stripe along the edge.

Fun fact: Male and female green woodpeckers look the same, but adult males are larger red color in the whisker band, while the adult female does not have it.

All ages and sexes have bright green plumage with yellow rump and red caps, but juvenile green woodpeckers have gray plumage.

Green woodpecker appearance:

  • head : dominant red crown, with black coloration around the eyes and pale green cheeks.
  • strong, long black bill.
  • coloration of the antennae of this bird distinguishes sex, since they are red in males , while females are black;
  • wings: green;
  • body: upper body has green plumage, lower body — gray, and the rump — yellow.

As with other woodpeckers, green woodpeckers use stiff tail feathers as support when they cling to a tree, and the fingers on them are specially positioned so that two fingers point forward , and two back.

Where does the green woodpecker live?

Photo: Green woodpecker

Photo: Green woodpecker
Author: Medvedeva Svetlana ( @msvetlana012018)

Although they are mostly sedentary, green woodpeckers gradually expanded their range in Britain and were first bred in Scotland in 1951. However, they are still absent from Ireland and the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight was only colonized in 1910, despite being more common in the south, suggesting a reluctance to cross the water.

They live in temperate, and also slightly in milder boreal and Mediterranean zones of the western Palearctic in oceanic and continental climates. Quite common in open woodland, heathland, gardens and farmland with hedgerows and scattered large trees.

Unlike most woodpeckers, it feeds primarily on the ground, including garden lawns where they pierce anthills and move with a strange, shuffling gait. Fairly large in size and mostly green plumage common to most areas; also noteworthy is the red crown, pale eyes and black face (males have a red whisker mark). Few birds in Iberia have a black face. The yellowish rump appears mainly in a slightly wavy flight.

Thus, in the UK, green woodpeckers live all year round and can be observed in most of its parts, with the exception of those very northern extremities in the Scottish Highlands, on the islands and throughout Northern Ireland. The green woodpecker’s preferred habitat is open forests, gardens, or large parks. They are looking for a combination of suitable mature trees for nesting and open ground. Open ground covered with short grass and vegetation is best suited for their feeding.

Now you know where the green woodpecker lives. Let’s see what he eats.

What does the green woodpecker eat?

Photo: Green woodpecker in Russia

Photo: Green woodpecker
Author: Medvedeva Svetlana (@msvetlana012018)

If you are lucky and green woodpeckers visit your garden, then you have most likely seen them on the lawn. This is because the green woodpecker’s diet consists mainly of ants — adults, larvae and eggs.

In winter, when ants become harder to find, they will eat the following:

  • other invertebrates;
  • pine seeds;
  • fruit.

Interesting fact: Since the main prey of the green woodpecker — ants, she spends a lot of time looking for prey on the ground and can be seen in her characteristic style.

Green woodpeckers voraciously consume ants. In fact, they spend such an incredible amount of time on the ground looking for their favorite food that you will often find them in parks and gardens — the short grass provides ideal feeding grounds for green woodpeckers. They also like to eat caterpillars and beetles and have a specially adapted long “sticky tongue” that serves to extract bedbugs from the cracks and crevices of old decaying trees.

Thus, despite the fact that the green woodpecker loves to eat ants , it may also eat other invertebrate beetles commonly found in their habitat or garden, along with pine seeds and some fruits. These other types of food will be a fallback option in times when ants are harder to find.

Personality and Lifestyle Features

Photo: Green Woodpecker

Photo: Green Woodpecker

Green woodpeckers live in trees, like most birds. They dig holes in tree trunks found in broadleaf forests. Their beaks are weaker than those of other woodpeckers, such as the great spotted woodpecker, so they prefer softer tree trunks when building a nest and rarely drum to communicate. Green woodpeckers also like to dig their own nests, a process that takes them two to four weeks.

Green woodpeckers are very loud and have a recognizable loud laugh known as a “yaffle”, which is often the only way to know that a green woodpecker is nearby, as they tend to be quite wary birds. This is by far the most distinctive sound that green woodpeckers make, but you can also hear their song, which is a series of ‘clue’ sounds that speed up slightly.

Interesting fact: Rainbird — this is another name for the green woodpecker, as birds are said to sing more in anticipation of rain.

Of the three Great Britain woodpeckers, the green woodpecker spends the least amount of time in trees and can often be seen foraging on the ground. Here he is likely to dig for ants, his favorite food. It eats both adults and their eggs, catching them with its exceptionally long and sticky tongue.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo : Green woodpecker bird

Photo: Green woodpecker bird

Although green woodpeckers may mate once in a lifetime, they are anti-social outside of the breeding season and spend most of the year living alone. The two halves of a pair may be next to each other during the winter, but they won’t reconnect until March. This is achieved through the use of loud calls and a courtship period.

Green woodpeckers prefer to nest in the holes of old deciduous trees (oak, beech and willow) that are close to feeding grounds with such delights as ants and caterpillars. Green woodpeckers usually gouge and extract the insides around a 60 mm x 75 mm rotting trunk, the inside of which has been dug to a depth of 400 mm. Interestingly, the difficult task of excavation is carried out only by a man for a long period of 15-30 days. This time-consuming method is often worth the effort, as a green woodpecker’s hand-made hole can last up to 10 years.

This bird is not very sociable and lives alone except during the breeding season. During courtship, the male chases the female around a tree trunk. Assuming a defensive stance, the male shakes his head from side to side, straightening his crest and spreading his wings and tail. Unlike many other woodpeckers, it only knocks in the spring.

From a breeding point of view, green woodpeckers begin the breeding process at the end of April and produce an average of 2 clutches per season. Each of these clutches produces 4 to 9 eggs and an incubation period of about 19 days then culminates in fledge for about 25 days. Green woodpeckers have only one brood of five to seven eggs and usually lay them in May. They usually nest in living trees and often use the same tree each year, if not the same hole.

At fledging, each parent usually takes half of the young — quite common in birds — and shows them where to feed. It is at this time of the year that they can be taken to garden lawns for feeding, which is a great opportunity to brush up on your identification skills.

Natural enemies of green woodpeckers

Photo: What a green woodpecker looks like

Photo: What a green woodpecker looks like

Natural enemies of green woodpeckers are nest-eaters such as snakes, grackles or other birds, they eat green woodpecker eggs and young. In adulthood, woodpeckers are prey for wild cats, bobcats, foxes, hawks and, of course, coyotes. If green woodpeckers did not have predators, we would be overwhelmed by their number. They have been in danger from the very beginning of their existence.

The green woodpecker is common in its population. Deforestation and habitat changes threaten its existence, however, this species is not threatened on a global scale at the moment. Green woodpeckers have increased most rapidly in arable habitats, but are also increasing in rural settlements and mixed farmlands. In their preferred habitat – deciduous forests – growth rates have slowed, the number has reached saturation point, which has led them to flow into a less preferred habitat.

The UK green woodpecker population has grown steadily since the 1960s when they expanded their range into central and eastern Scotland. They have also recently expanded their population in England, but not in Wales. The reason for this increase is climate change, as these woodpeckers are exposed to cold weather. Thus, the main threats to green woodpeckers are the loss of forest habitat and changes in agriculture: meadows are plowed annually, and ant colonies are either destroyed or not established.

Population and view status

Photo: Green-backed woodpecker

Photo: Green-backed woodpecker

Currently, the UK green woodpecker population is relatively static at 52,000 breeding pairs according to the RSPB, although there is now a well-known trajectory of population decline, partly due to loss of woodland and heathlands. View Status — fairly common breeding bird in Leicestershire and Rutland. The green woodpecker can be found in most of Britain, with the exception of the far north. Also absent from Northern Ireland.

This species has a large range with an estimated global distribution of 1,000,000 — 10,000,000 km². The population of the Earth is about 920,000 — 2900,000 people. Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable, so the species is not considered to be approaching the thresholds for the IUCN Red List population decline criterion (i.e. a decline of more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is ranked as the least threatened.

Creating short and long grass areas provides a mixed habitat for all kinds of creatures. It can also be useful for the green woodpecker to feed the ground, giving it a place to hide and hunt for its prey. Whether you live in the city or the countryside, you can help care for green woodpeckers and other garden birds by providing them with food and water.

The green woodpecker has an amazing combination of green and yellow plumage, red crown, black whiskers and pale , a closer look. If you manage to get a good look at this shy creature, you will surely be surprised. And when he sees you and flies away, listen to this laughter echoing into the distance.

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