Wednesday, 5 September 2007

White-backed Woodpecker: distribution and range

The global range of White-backed Woodpecker lies within the Palearctic from Fenno-Scandia and central Europe eastwards through boreal Asia, to Kamchatka, China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Though generally regarded as an “eastern" species White-backed Woodpeckers probably inhabited all of Europe including Britain in the past, possibly up to the Middle Ages, when there was still much old forest covering the landscape. Today it is Europe’s rarest woodpecker, being often very local in the boreal and temperate zones of central and Eastern Europe, Fenno-Scandia and Russia. Elsewhere it has a rather scattered distribution with small relic populations of the lilfordi race in the Pyrenees, the Balkans and the Apennines. Italy is home to some isolated populations of the lilfordi race (leucotos is accidental and very rare in the north of the country with a few records from Liguria, Lombardia and Trentino). The two known populations of lilfordi are in central and southern Italy respectively. The most important is in the Abruzzo Mountains in the Apennines in old beech forests, and has been known since 1929 and confirmed in 1959. The Abruzzo National Park, Majella National Park, Monti della Laga National Park and Terminillo Mountains all hold small numbers. Over most of its range White-backed Woodpecker is uncommon, if not rare, though in some areas such as the Carpathians and the lowland forests of Belarus it is widely distributed. A major contraction in range, particularly in the west of Europe, occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet despite its overall rarity in Europe the species can be locally the most common woodpecker. For example, in the old mixed forests of the Austrian Chalk Alps White-backed Woodpecker is more common than Great Spotted.

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