Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: general ID

Measurements: Length 14-16 cm. Wingspan 24-27 cm. Europe’s smallest woodpecker is just two-thirds the size of Great Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers and around three-quarters the size of Middle Spotted Woodpecker. This species appears short-tailed and round headed in shape. It is the only European Dendrocopos woodpecker to lack red or pink colouration on the under-tail coverts and ventral area, which are white, spotted with grey-black. It is also "ladder-backed", lacking the white oval scapular patches of most other Dendrocopos woodpeckers. In fact, in terms of the black-and-white back pattern, Lesser Spotted most resembles White-backed Woodpecker. Black lower mantle, scapulars and upper rump barred white. Breast and belly whitish, with a suggestion of buff. White flanks and sides of breast generally finely streaked with black, but never to the extent of Middle Spotted Woodpecker. The black tips of the greater and some median wing-coverts are spotted white. Black flight feathers barred boldly white. Upper tail black, outer rectrices white with 2-3 black bars before tips. Sides of face, ear-coverts, chin and throat white. Black malar stripe runs from base of lower mandible to side of neck where it joins black lateral neck stripe and post-auricular stripe. A large black area is formed at this T-junction. The lateral neck stripe runs down onto the side of the breast. On the vast majority of birds the post-auricular stripe reaches only halfway or so across the ear-coverts and does not touch the black nape (this varies with race). Thus the reddish-brown eye (iris) is set in a large, open area of white. The bill is mostly grey-charcoal, with the base of the lower mandible paler, often lead coloured. It appears slight, pointed and rather weak. However, 12-18 mm long, it is in fact relatively large for the overall size of the bird. The legs are greyish-green. The photo shows an adult male at Chemnitz, Germany (Thomas Kraft).

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