Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted WoodpeckerWoodpeckers are common British birds. They are easy to spot in and around your garden during winter when the trees are bare. In summer when the trees are in full leaf you can sometimes hear them but it is very difficult to see them.

Their preferred habitat is deciduous woodland. They feed on insects, seeds and nuts. They will happily feed at bird tables in large gardens  especially if peanuts or sunflower seeds are on offer.  You are most likely to see them when it is very cold and they are hungry.

Woodpecker 01

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a distinctive black and white bird with a red rump. The males also have a red cap.  Their feet are adapted for climbing trees and they use their tail feathers for extra support. This one is a female. I was fascinated to watch how she used her sharp beak to strip off the bark from this hawthorn tree and then her long sticky tongue to reach the insects or larvae inside. You can see all the reddish areas on the tree where the bark has been removed.

Woodpecker 03

Woodpecker 02
Woodpeckers climb with their feet and use their tail feathers for support.

The male uses the dead wood at the top of the oak trees in our garden to drum out his message to other woodpeckers. I don’t know if it’s a mating call or simply a territorial warning. I do know that around here it goes on throughout the year, not just in spring.

Tricky Situation: In spring Woodpeckers may attack your garden nest boxes to feed on the eggs or chicks. This happened to us a couple of years ago… we were astonished to see that the entrance had been enlarged so the bigger woodpecker (a little bigger than a blackbird) could gain access to a tiny Blue tit nest. You can prevent this from happening by keeping Woodpeckers well fed and fitting a metal hole surround to each nest box.