Great Spotted Woodpecker - Forest Nurse


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Great Spotted Woodpecker is a beautiful, noisy and very useful bird. It can be seen, more precisely, to hear in the parks, in the gardens, in the forest belts. The motley bird leaping along the trunk and pecking it with its beak is the woodpecker, often called the forest health officer. How does he live? What eats in the winter when there are no insects? How to make a pair? We bring to your attention the most interesting facts about the great variegated woodpecker. Perhaps some of them will surprise you.

General information

Each species of bird is distinguished by a unique feature. The bald eagle has huge nests, the hummingbird has tiny sizes, the peacock has a chic tail, and the great spotted woodpecker has a lot of trees. Fans of forest walks from early morning until sunset can hear its characteristic “tuk-tuk”. Woodpecker strikes on the trunk resemble drumming. Each time it lasts only 0.6 seconds, during which the bird has time to make up to 13 (according to other data up to 23) blows. If you hear just such sounds, it means that the great variegated woodpeckers began a period of mating. When a bird reaches under the bark of a beetle, the sounds can be completely different.

Woodpeckers are known to people for many centuries. They are even mentioned in myths and legends. So, it was this bird that helped the wolf to feed Rem and Romulus, who became the founders of Rome.

In Europe, during the Neolithic period, there was a cult of woodpecker. In the third century BC, the forest “drummers” were highly revered by the Sabines. One of their genera bore the name of a woodpecker. Therefore, the bird was worshiped and never hurt her.


Great spotted woodpecker can be found on vast areas of Eurasia - from Scandinavia and the Iberian Peninsula in the west, to the Kuriles and Japan in the east, from Laos in the south to Western Siberia in the north (67 ° N. W). This species of woodpeckers lives in Great Britain, on the Kola Peninsula, in Iran, in Corsica, in Sicily and Sardinia, in China and Mongolia, in Ukraine and other European countries. In Russia, the great spotted woodpecker is found on all European territory, including the Moscow region. It also dwells in Kamchatka, Kuriles, Sakhalin, in Transcaucasia, Crimea, the Arctic and in the Urals.

Woodpeckers of this species live even in Africa - in the northern regions of Algeria and Tunisia (up to the foothills of the Great Atlas), on the Canary Islands, in Morocco.

These birds settle everywhere where deciduous or coniferous trees grow. If there is a choice, woodpeckers prefer pine, but can live among olives, poplars, rhododendrons, oaks, aspens, birches. Only dark marshy spruce forests they do not like. In such forests there is no great spotted woodpecker.

This species is more loyal to man than others, therefore it can settle in parks and in private plots.

Description of the Great Spotted Woodpecker

Visible and recognizable this bird makes the red "cap." You are mistaken if you think that all variegated woodpeckers "wear" it. This “headdress” of small delicate feathers with barely noticeable black strokes is characteristic only of young individuals of both sexes. In adult birds, in the process of annual molts, black feathers replace the red feathers. The males on the back of the head is only a red strip. According to her, they can be distinguished from females. Both sexes have a bright red undertail. All the rest of the body of large variegated woodpeckers is decorated with inks and white feathers. They have black with blue tint back, uppertail, tail and top of the head. The same color wing feathers on the wings. A black stripe, like a mustache, stretches from the beak of a woodpecker to the neck.

White or brownish-white in a variegated woodpecker cheeks, forehead, belly, shoulders and extreme tail feathers. There are also white spots on the feathers.

This bird is small in size, but not the smallest. It weighs up to 100 grams. The length of the body is from 22 to 27 cm, the wingspan is up to 47. For comparison, we note that the small spotted woodpecker weighs up to 26 grams, its body size can be from 14 to 16 cm, and the wingspan is up to 30. Not experts can easily confuse birds of these two species, taking the small woodpecker for a young individual.

The paws of the great spotted woodpecker are dark brown. The beak is black with a lead shimmer, very powerful, chisel-shaped. The iris of most woodpeckers has a brown color, but sometimes it is red.

Similar species

In our forests you can meet the Syrian woodpecker, which is very similar to the large variegated. In size it is slightly smaller. So, its weight is up to 80 grams, and the length of the body is up to 23 cm. At first glance, it is impossible to distinguish birds by this attribute. Understand what a woodpecker in front of you, you can by the "antennae", pulling from the beak. In Syrian, they are absent or interrupted on the cheeks. Also, representatives of this species have white spots on their shoulders that have a more drop-like shape.

One more species of woodpeckers lives in the Russian forests, which is very similar to the big motley one. This representative is white-backed. It is slightly larger. Its weight can reach up to 140 grams, and body length - up to 31 cm. But the main differences lie in the colors. The white-backed undertail is pink, the back is white, and there are no white spots on the shoulders.

Behavior features

If the characteristic of a large motley woodpecker to give in a few words, they will be like this: an individualist, bright, noticeable, very noisy. Ornithologists know that this particular species is the most blatant. The bird is able to resent, rejoice, protect its territory, show off its hollow, to persuade the female to mate. All this is accompanied by cries of different pitch and frequency. Great motley woodpeckers express emotions at the slightest provocation. If he is not busy crushing the cones, then he screams just like that. In their "vocabulary" ornithologists distinguish "kick", "cr-cr", "ki-ki" and other sounds that can not be written in human letters. Agree, it is difficult not to pay attention to such a vociferous screamer.

It is good that the great motley woodpeckers love solitude. Imagine what the din would be like if they were going to flocks! However, they prefer to have an individual territory, the entrance to which for strangers is closed. Otherwise, the owner immediately begins to demonstrate threats. He sits down in front of the uninvited guest, ruffles feathers on his head, opens his beak and starts screaming (he probably suggests that the stranger leave). Further, the owner of the site begins to knock on the trunk and fly over the alien. If this does not work, then go with wings and beak.

The area of ​​possession of each variegated woodpecker varies from 2 to 25 hectares, which depends on the density of forest plantations and the amount of feed.

Even jointly feeding the chicks, the male and female of the great motley woodpecker produce for them food at different ends of the plot.

You can see the accumulation of these woodpeckers only during the invasion period (birds gather in large flocks and wander in search of new territories).

What eats the great motley woodpecker? You are mistaken if you think that only beetles. Insects form the basis of its diet only in a season, that is, from mid-spring to mid-autumn. During this time, woodpeckers destroy bark beetles, leaf wrenches, ladybirds, barbel, ground beetles, ants, crested insects and dozens of other insect species. Ornithologists found up to 500 different individuals in the stomachs of birds. With a beak, woodpeckers make a hole in the trunk, and with a long thin tongue pull out a beetle or its larva from it.

Occasionally, woodpeckers peck up snails, they can eat small crustaceans. They do not refuse from fruits, berries, nuts.

Woodpeckers are not birds of prey, but if the occasion arises, do not disdain to ravage the nests of smaller birds (tits, robins, finches, flycatchers), eating eggs and even chicks.

In the spring, woodpeckers ruin anthills, peck up insects crawling not only on trees, but also on the ground.

In winter, they switch to seed cones, nuts, acorns. The method of obtaining this food is also very interesting. Woodpeckers find or construct special anvils themselves, which are a crevice in the trunk or accrete branches. They insert a cone into the gap, and then begin to break it with its beak. Each woodpecker makes for itself several such anvils. Ornithologists numbered them up to 56 pieces on one site, and under the tree of the “dining room” sometimes up to 7 thousand pieces of united cones were gathered.

There is even carrion in the menu of great spotted woodpeckers, which they also do not shun. It is this species that can settle near a person’s dwelling, where they often feed at landfills, eating food waste.


Great motley woodpeckers are usually monogamous. Birds become sexually mature by the end of the first year of their life. Their marriage games last almost two months - from mid-March to mid-May. However, the males begin to experience sexual arousal in January. This is manifested by their aggressive screams and drumming. For the period of breeding, the male and female combine their individual plots. After the end of the process of raising chicks, the spouses scatter in different directions, but in spring they can converge again.

Caring for a bride is manifested not only by shouts, but also by fluttering with a fluffed tail around her. Also, males can demonstrate to the female a hollowed hollow. Often the bride and groom playfully pursue each other. In this action, the lady always prevails.

The courtship mating ends.

The finished nest can be used many times, but more often birds build a new one. On the site where the Great Spotted Woodpecker lives, you can find up to a dozen nests started, but abandoned. Apparently, the knots in the trunk prevent the birds from completing their work. Where to build a house, always choose a gentleman. Usually it is a tree trunk, but woodpeckers' houses were found in wooden telegraph poles. The wood of a suitable tree should be soft, but not rotten and not rotten. Most woodpeckers like aspen. A pine, a birch, a larch, a linden can like them. More often they build hollows at a height of about 8 meters, but ornithologists found their homes at a height of 26 meters, and only 30 centimeters. The diameter of the hollow is about 12 cm, and the depth of the nest is up to 35. The house with a visor, which is a tinder fungus, is an ideal option for a woodpecker.

Having completed the creation of the dwelling, the female lays white shiny eggs in an amount of 4 to 8 pieces. Their maximum dimensions are 24x30 mm. Hatching lasts only 10-12 days. All this time, the male actively helps his “spouse”, often replaces her, and at night he remains in the hollow himself. Chicks are born blind, big-headed, almost bald, completely helpless. The first days they are very quiet. Parents bring them food every 2-3 minutes. With such a strong diet kids grow up quickly. The very next day, they open their eyes, and after a few more days, the first feathers begin to replace the light fuzz on their bodies.

Already on the 10th day the chicks make their way to the entrance (exit from the hollow). There they are waiting for parents who bring food. In the hollow, children of the great motley woodpecker spend 20-23 days, after which they try their strength in flight and begin to learn how to feed on their own. At this stage, the family is divided. One part of the babies follows the father, and the other one follows the mother. They stay near the nest for another 2-3 weeks. All this time, their parents feed. Then every young woodpecker begins to take care of himself.

Enemies and parasites

Great spotted woodpeckers, representing a threat to some small birds, themselves suffer from predatory birds. They are attacked by goshawks, sparrows, sometimes even peregrine falcons, in case the bird finds itself in an open area. It is even harder for chicks who do not know how to fly yet. Dwellings of woodpeckers often ruin squirrels, ermines, martens, and red-haired women (a kind of bat). An ordinary starling, who is able to expel woodpeckers from a prepared dwelling, can become a claimant to a hollow.

Not only large, but also small living creatures annoy woodpeckers. In their hollows ornithologists find wood lice, lice, ticks, fleas.

Traits of fitness of the great spotted woodpecker

These amazing birds in the process of evolution formed characteristic features that allowed them to occupy their natural niche. To easily climb up the trunk, they have sharp claws. Their paws are arranged so that from four fingers two are directed forward, and two - back. This allows the feathered very quickly and deftly move through the trees. They never turn their heads down.

The woodpeckers' hard tail is also adapted for a comfortable and reliable position on a vertical trunk. When the birds sit on it, the tail serves as their support.

Woodpeckers have phenomenal hearing, which allows them to catch the slightest sound of larvae or beetles feeding in the trunk.

Their thin language deserves much attention. In spotted woodpeckers, its length is about 40 mm. At the end of the language is pointed. The bird pushes it into the hole and forcefully pierces the larva with it, like a harpoon. In addition, the language has special glands that secrete adhesive substance.

But the greatest interest is the ability of woodpeckers to peck with a beak on a tree without the slightest damage to the head. Scientists have calculated that the stress experienced by the bird’s head at the moment of a blow to the trunk with its beak is about 250 times higher than that which occurs when a rocket is launched. The woodpecker calmly withstands such loads, because anatomically its beak is separated from the skull by a special cushioning cushion. It is a spongy fabric, thanks to which the bird feels great, making holes in the trunks all day and drawing out forest pests from there.

Appearance of a motley woodpecker

Individuals of this species reach 23-26 centimeters in length, and their wingspan is 38-44 centimeters. Weigh big woodpeckers no more than 100 grams.

The bird has a colorful plumage, which performs the function of camouflage among the vegetation. The males on the back of the head have a strip of dark red color, while the females do not have such a strip. The tail plumage is very tough, since woodpeckers use the tail as a support when sitting in trees.

The head, back, and nadhvoste in the great variegated woodpeckers are black, and the throat and belly are light brown. On the sides of the body there are light stripes. Extreme tail feathers have a white color. The tail is black. From the beak to the chest stretches a strip of black.

The spotted woodpecker is important in the ecosystem.

Habitat of great motley woodpecker, dietary habits

Great woodpecker inhabits a large part of the globe and is found in almost all regions with abundant forest resources. He is found and on the Canary Islands, and on Kamchatka, and in Japan. In most cases, the bird prefers a sedentary lifestyle, although sometimes it makes small migrations to neighboring regions.

The bird does not make high demands on the habitat, so it is easy for it to equip housing in the dense taiga, and in the park of a densely populated metropolis. It all depends on the food supply and climatic conditions.

As for the diet, the main part of it is insects. Even schoolchildren and small children know that the woodpecker is the chief orderly of the forest flora, which destroys huge colonies of various pests, such as:

In the absence of such a nutritious feed, the bird does not have the opportunity to eat nuts, berries or mushrooms. At the same time, the predominance of plant or animal food depends on the season and geographical features of the area. Both females and males are looking for food in certain areas. If the food supply is very poor, the birds move to other parts of the forest.

In the spring-summer diet are different insects and their larvae.

Among them:

In addition, in the diet often appear different butterflies and ants. In some cases, the bird eats carrion, and sometimes ruins the nests of other small warblers.

It is known that the Great Spotted Woodpecker has an amazing dexterity, which is emphasized by 130 beaks per minute. At such a speed, not a single small pest can go unnoticed.

What does the Great Spotted Woodpecker eat in winter and autumn?

With the arrival of serious cold snaps the bird prefers plant food, which contains a large amount of protein.

Favorite delicacies include:

Ornithologists secrete unique system of obtaining seeds from coneswhich is used by almost all types of woodpeckers. However, representatives of the great colorful woodpecker brought it to the present perfection.

For a start, the bird needs to get a pine, cedar or any other cone, and in its beak move it to a previously prepared place, the so-called anvil. As a similar device, the feathery uses a clamp or slot in the upper part of the trunk.

With a powerful blow to the beak, a woodpecker breaks a cone into pieces and begins to act according to plan, taking out small seeds by peeling off scales. Up to 50 such anvils can be at the disposal of one adult individual, however, in operation, as a rule, there are only 2-3 units. For this reason, do not be surprised if you see a mass of cones and scales under one tree.

Despite the presence of many facts and photographs, the behavior of the woodpecker during the extraction of food is studied only a few percent. It remains to hope that in the future science will tell us new unique secrets.

When the great spotted woodpecker begins the mating season. Nesting features

Like some other species of birds, representatives of the Dyatlov family remain very faithful to their spouses. Birds are characterized by monogamy and amazing marital fidelity. They will accompany one female to the end of their lives, protecting them from predators and other dangers that lie in the forest at every turn. Final puberty comes at the age of one year. It is important to note that after successful pairing, the pair can stay together until the next season. Or they diverge for a while, and then reconnect in spring.

During the mating season, the birds behave very interesting and remarkable. The first characteristic features of behavior are noticed already at the end of February and the beginning of March. Males make loud sounds, shout and show special aggression. Females remain less active and remain calm. In the middle of the last month of spring couples begin to mate.

Choosing a tree for nest arrangement is a male task.

As it uses the following trees:

The main thing is that the breed was soft, but not rotten.

The peculiarity of the large motley woodpecker, which is found in rare-leaved forests, is annual nest laying. If the bird lives in a coniferous area, most likely it will return to its previous place of residence. The bird has a hollow at a height of 6-8 meters, making a hole in the trunk of 25-35 centimeters with a diameter of 10 cm.

The male is engaged in construction work, and they last no longer than two weeks. The male periodically replaces the male and helps him in the construction of the structure.

Egg laying occurs in the middle of springAs a rule, in the second half of April. In the clutch can be from five to seven eggs with white shells. Hatching eggs, both females and males. The male sits on them at night to protect the nest from predators. The incubation period ends in 10-12 days, when blind, helpless creatures are born.

What dangers threaten the woodpecker?

It can be assumed that the woodpecker has no enemies, since its powerful beak is a very effective weapon for defense and attack. However, it is not. Birds of prey from time to time attack woodpeckers and destroy their nests.

Among them:

If you pay attention to terrestrial predators, which are a danger to woodpeckers, then marten and ermine should be attributed to them. Even small rodents, such as squirrel and redhead (one type of bat), can harm the normal existence of the bird. Repeatedly, woodpeckers are oppressed by starlings who settle in their hollows.

However, due to a certain set of characteristics that woodpeckers got in the process of a long adaptation to the environment, many predators simply cannot reach the nests.

The main features of adaptation to habitat are presented below.

  • The presence of tenacious claws allows the bird to confidently hold on the trunk of trees or on thin branches,
  • The presence of a rigid tail with a pointed end provides a reliable grip with the trunk, so the woodpecker does not slide down while gouging the nest,
  • The presence of a strong and long beak allows you to effectively pierce the bark and get food,
  • A very long and sticky tongue serves to get insects from the most inaccessible places,

What is the difference between the small and the great spotted woodpecker?

  • External characteristics. Representatives of the small species have a transverse black stripe on the cheek, which is interrupted by a white spot in the neck. However, individuals lack a pink or reddish undertail, but have a red cap with a black border on their heads.
  • Birds are distinguished by the nature of the sounds produced. The first type creates a very short fraction, which can last no longer than 0.6 seconds and include from 12 to 13 shots. However, it is very problematic to distinguish between two types of this feature, since in reality, the fraction resembles a solid sound. However, its voicing is very quickly lost and fades into the wilderness. Representatives of the great spotted woodpecker are able to make up to 130 beats per minute. For this reason, the sound produced is heard for hundreds of meters. The fraction of small woodpeckers often resembles the singing of songbirds.
  • The size of a small woodpecker is slightly smaller: the length is 14-15 centimeters,
  • Birds differ in habitat selection features. The Little Woodpecker likes to live in deciduous and mixed forests, near ponds and swamps. Avoids dark conifers.

The woodpecker is an amazing forest dweller. Its role for the ecosystem is very large, so it makes no sense to ask the question: "is this bird useful or vice versa"?

The behavior of the great variegated woodpeckers

Large colorful woodpeckers prefer a lonely lifestyle, each individual has its own forage area. But with a high density of birds, these plots can intersect with each other. In such cases, conflicts arise, especially during nesting.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker eats both animal and plant food.

Woodpeckers of only one sex conflict with each other, that is, the male will not mind if there is a female on its territory. During the showdown, the birds strike each other with wings and beaks. At the same time they become threatening posture - slightly open the beak and ruffle feathers on the head.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a bird that does not leave its habitat, the birds are sedentary, and only the inhabitants of the northern regions during a power outage can change their habitat, moving to warmer and nourishing lands.

Listen to the voice of the great motley woodpecker

Great colorful woodpeckers fly very well and climb trees. Most often, woodpeckers just climb, and fly only when they need to move to another tree.

Spotted woodpecker in search of food.

Woodpeckers live on various trees, they have chosen both taiga trees and city parks. In this case, the bird is not afraid of man and lives in close proximity to him.

Nutrition of spotted woodpeckers

In summertime, woodpeckers prey on various insects that are found in the bark of trees. Woodpeckers carefully check every slot on the trunk. Birds have a long beak and a large sensitive tongue up to 4 centimeters long. It is with the tongue of the bird that the presence of insects is determined, after which a hole about 10 centimeters deep is hollowed out. Woodpeckers get insects from cracks also with the help of tongue.

The search for insects begins from the bottom of the tree, after which the woodpecker moves gradually upwards. In the next tree, the procedure is repeated again. Great spotted woodpeckers always pick old trees damaged by tree beetles. From this it follows that woodpeckers are forest cleaners, as they save trees from pests.

Vegetable food is also suitable for bird feed.

In winter, woodpeckers feed on plant food: acorns, nuts and seeds. Insects in the winter are extremely rare. If food is not enough, the woodpecker has to change its habitat zone. Young animals may not return to their homes for several years, and old birds are reluctant to change their habitual lifestyle.

In spring, when seeds and buds are gone, and new insects have not yet appeared, woodpeckers feed on the sap of trees. They extract the sap in the usual way, punching the bark of trees with their powerful beak.

Enemies of spotted woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are brave birds, they are not afraid of predators, but quickly fly away with an imminent danger. Great spotted woodpeckers ignore people; if a person comes close to a tree on which a woodpecker sits, the latter simply moves to the other side of the trunk. Only in the case when a person shows a heightened interest to the woodpecker does he shout loudly and fly off to another place.

But it is worth noting that woodpeckers get along well with people for many hundreds of years. Populations are not threatened with extinction, since the number of large variegated woodpeckers is consistently high.