Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Atypical Great Spotted Woodpecker

This photo taken recently by Szabolcs Kokay in Budapest, Hungary, shows a male Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major with atypical head markings. It can be seen that the post-aurical stripes do not fully join at the nape, they are broken. This may suggest Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus or perhaps a hybrid bird. However, other features such as the red undertail coverts and strong beak indicate Great Spotted. The bird also apparently called like a Great Spotted and had considerable white on the outer tail feathers (though not really visable on this shot). Such birds often cause observers to claim a hybrid Great Spotted-Syrian, however such atypical features are not uncommon on Great Spotted Woodpeckers and I believe that this bird is simply an atypical specimen. Whether the bird has some Syrian influences, that is, a back-cross resultant from previous hybridizations, cannot be determined.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Woodpecker anvil

In this photo a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major is dealing with a pine-cone wedged in an anvil. An anvil like this is sometimes called a "smithy" or "workshop". An anvil is a place, usually a crevice or hole on a tree, but sometimes in a wall, where a woodpecker wedges a food item which it can then open up.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Gallery: Adult female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Adult female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. The extensive white on the underside of the outer tail feathers (rectrices) is an important feature that separates from Syrian Woodpecker. This is very clear on this photo taken in Suffolk, UK, by Ross Haddow.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Quiz woodpecker 23

Can you name the species ? The age ? The sex ? Of this European woodpecker...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Gallery: Syrian Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus. Pink undertail coverts, black outer tail feathers and lack of post-auricular stripe on the cheek indicate Syrian rather than Great Spotted Woodpecker. All black nape, lacking red, indicates a female. This photo taken by Julia Burton in Tiszafured, Hungary in October 2008.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Gallery: Green Woodpecker juvenile male

Juvenile male Green Woodpecker Picus viridis. Photo taken in Germany by Thomas Kraft. Note the touch of red in the rather weak malar stripe.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Black Woodpecker: more feeding site signs

Here is another example of a classic feeding site of Black Woodpecker. Large, long slits and oval-shaped holes, large woodchips on the ground below. Some holes close to the ground, too. The bird has hacked into the heart of the tree to feed on carpenter ants. Photo taken in the Buda Hills, Budapest, Hungary, December 2008.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Gallery: Great Spotted Woodpecker adult male

This snapshot of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was taken in the Royal Lazienki Park, Warsaw, Poland, by Mike Roman. Note how prominent the red nape-patch is. Such areas of bright colour on the heads of adult woodpeckers are "badges" that usually (but not always) indicate gender.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Gallery: Three-toed Woodpecker adult male alpinus race

Adult male (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker alpinus race. Photo taken in Bavaria, Germany by Ralph Martin.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Woodpeckers hiding

This photo of a Black Woodpecker shows the bird in a typical, classic pose. When approached many woodpeckers (if they do not fly off) will simply move to the opposite side of the tree trunk to the observer. From here they will occasionally peep out and assess the situation. This shot was taken by Szabolcs Kokay at Tata, Hungary.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Gallery: White-backed Woodpecker adult female lilfordi race

Adult female White-backed Woodpecker lilfordi race. Photo taken by Paul Harris at a nest-site in the Abruzzo Mountains, Italy.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Gallery: White-backed Woodpecker adult male lilfordi race

Adult male White-backed Woodpecker lilfordi race. Photo taken by Paul Harris in the Abruzzo Mountains, Italy.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Black Woodpecker: fresh feeding site - woodchips

This photo shows the woodchips below the feeding site of the Black Woodpecker shown in the previous post (below). The largest chips were about 4cm long. Due to the softness of the rotten timber at the heart of the trunk, many chips were soft and frayed. Photo taken near Subotica, Serbia, in November 2009.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Black Woodpecker: fresh feeding site

This close up shows the fresh feeding site of a Black Woodpecker. The bird was searching for carpenter ants which have their colonies inside tree trunks. The hole was some 30cm long by 16cm wide and 20cm deep (two adult hands could easily fit inside). Indeed the bird that made the hole must have been at times totally inside the hole when excavating it. Photo taken near Subotica, Serbia, in November 2009.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Quiz woodpecker 21

Which species ? And the sex ? This photo taken in Hungary in October 2008 by Julia Burton.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Recommended Reading:

Compared to most other bird families woodpeckers have not been widely written about. There are many ornithological studies but very few books on the Picidae for general reading. From those available one of the best is My Year With The Woodpeckers by Heinz Sielmann. This wonderful book deals mainly with Black Woodpeckers in Germany and how they were first filmed in the nesting cavity for BBC television in the 1950s. It is out of print but can be found in antiquarian book shops and on the internet. My English language copy dates from 1961 and was published by the Readers Union, London.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Great Spotted Woodpecker: atypical female

These two photos of a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major were taken recently in Hungary by Szabolcs Kókay. The bird seems to be a female as a male would have a large red nape patch. But note that though this bird's nape is black, there are two spots of red on the nape. Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers of both sexes have all red crowns and sometimes retain some red colour on the head after moulting into adult plumage, so it might be considered that this bird is a female that has just moulted from juvenile to adult plumage (see brown feathers on the wing in one photo) and which has retained some red feathers on the head. However, this would not explain why the red is on the nape, rather than on the crown. It might also be thought that this is an adult male that has a reduced amount of red on the nape. However, I consider this bird to be an atypical female. In fact, close inspection of Great Spotted (and other Dendrocopos woodpeckers) often reveals unusual, atypical plumages such as this.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Quiz woodpecker 20

What is this species. And sex ? And why ? Photo taken by Julia Burton in Hungary in October 2008.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Feeding signs on a fir tree

This photo (taken in the Bieszczady Mountains, Poland, in November 2008) shows feeding marks left on a fir tree Abies alba by a woodpecker (species uncertain). The bird had been been searching for the larva of long-horn beetles (Rhagium species) which lay just below the soft bark.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Gallery: Black Woodpecker nestlings

Black Woodpeckers can be visually sexed when still in the nesting cavity, i.e. before they fledge. As with adults, fledgling males have complete red crowns whilst fledgling females only have red on the hind crown. Thus, the top bird in this photo is a male. The sex of the lower bird is unclear due to its crown being out of view.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gallery: Black Woodpecker adult male

Male Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Taken in the Danube Delta, Romania, by Daniel Petrescu. Note the all red crown. Also note the brown feathers on the wing. It is not clear whether this is a result of age, wear or other factors.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Gallery: Black Woodpecker female

Female Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Taken in the Danube Delta, Romania, by Daniel Petrescu. Note only the rear of the crown is red.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Gallery: Syrian Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus. Taken by Bence Kókay near Apaj in Hungary.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Gallery: White-backed Woodpecker adult female

Adult female White-backed Woodpecker. Nominate race Dendrocopos l. leucotos. Taken by Szabolcs Kókay in Hungary.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Gallery: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor. Taken by László Nehézy in Hungary.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Gallery: Middle Spotted Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius. Taken by László Nehézy in Hungary.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Gallery: Great Spotted Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. Taken by Bill Baston in the UK.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Gallery: Black Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Taken in the Danube Delta, Romania, by Daniel Petrescu.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Gallery: Three-toed Woodpecker adult female

Adult female Three-toed Woodpecker. Nominate race Picoides t. tridactylus. Taken in Sweden by Goran Ekstrom.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Gallery: Wryneck adult

Adult Wryneck Jynx torquilla taken by Daniel Bastaja in a ringing camp in Hungary.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Gallery: Syrian Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus. Taken by Gábor Vasuta in Hungary.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Gallery: White-backed Woodpecker adult male

Adult male White-backed Woodpecker. Nominate race Dendrocopos l. leucotos. Taken by Jari Peltomäki in Finland.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Gallery: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor. Taken by Thomas Kraft in Chemitz, Germany.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Gallery: Middle Spotted Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius. Taken by László Nehézy in the Bukk Hills, Hungary.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Gallery: Great Spotted Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. Taken by László Nehézy in the Bukk Hills, Hungary.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Gallery: Grey-headed (Grey-faced) Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus. Taken by Jean-Baptiste Pons in the Danube Delta, Romania.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Gallery: Black Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Taken in Finland by Jari Peltomäki.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Gallery: Three-toed Woodpecker adult male

Adult male Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus. Nominate race tridactylus. Taken in Estonia by Mati Kose. This is the first photograph in a series where I intend to show all 10 European woodpecker species in various plumages. Hopefully I will be able to include adult males, adult females, juveniles and where relevant geographical races.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Quiz woodpecker 19

Here is the latest quiz woodpecker photo. Here is a clue: the bird low down on the right is a Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus and the bird top-left is the woodpecker. That bird is obviously a Dendrocopos species, being mainly "black and white" (a so-called "pied" woodpecker) and there are only 5 Dendrocopos species in Europe... so it should not be too difficult to narrow it down!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Quiz woodpecker 18

Next up... another flight view of a European woodpecker species. Which is it ? And why ?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Woodpecker artwork: drawings

In earlier posts on this blog I mentioned the work of Hungarian wildlife artist Szabolcs Kokay. Besides his excellent paintings of woodpeckers Szabolcs also draws and sketches the family. This fine black and white drawing of two Middle Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos medius in an oakwood in Hungary, was published in my book Woodpeckers of Europe. Here, the artist's skill in capturing the jizz and behaviour of woodpeckers is clear. More of Szabolcs' work (woodpeckers and other birds and wildlife) can be seen here: http://kokayart.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Vertical lines of woodpecker holes

It is not unusual to see a vertical line of woodpecker holes on a tree. This is often the result of a pair of woodpeckers having created new nesting cavities in a favourite tree year after year. A favourite tree is one that has proved easy to excavate and which was successful for breeding. Sometimes such lines of holes are due to the birds having started a cavity and then abandoned it before moving on to another spot on the same tree trunk. It can also be the case that some of the holes in a line lead to the same, single cavity. That is, the cavity within the tree trunk has more than one entrance. But in this case, it is not clear whether this is by accident or by design. Woodpeckers also produce lines of holes when searching for tree dwelling prey. This example of a series of Black Woodpecker holes in a beech tree was taken by Szabolcs Kokay in the Zemplen Hills, Hungary.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Quiz woodpecker 16

Can you identify this European woodpecker ? Thanks to Bob Campbell-Barr for the photo.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Black Woodpecker: identifying a feeding site

Here is a photo of a feeding site of a woodpecker (taken this May in the Soomaa National Park, Estonia). Several things point to this being the work of a Black Woodpecker. Firstly, the size of the holes made (an adult's hand can easily fit inside), Secondly, the location (being at ground level, only Black, Green and Grey-headed are comfortable feeding with their feet on terra firma). Thirdly, the size of the wood chips (some 6cm long). And, though not really visible in this photo, the beak marks on the timber were very large, too large for any other European woodpecker species.