Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Great Spotted Woodpecker: general ID
Measurements: Length 21-23 cm. Wingspan 34-39 cm. Taking all European species into account Great Spotted is a medium sized woodpecker. It is the same size, shape and structure as Syrian Woodpecker and thus between the larger White-backed and smaller Middle Spotted Woodpecker. The nominate race major is described here. This is the woodpecker with which most Europeans are familiar. It is a typical Dendrocopos species, essentially black and white, one of the so-called “pied" woodpeckers. The upper-parts from mantle to rump are essentially glossy black and marked with white. The inner scapulars are black, outer scapulars and inner greater and median coverts white and combine to produce large white ovals on the “shoulders". These white oval patches show particularly well in flight. The chin and throat are white or cream. The breast, belly and flanks are also white, sometimes slightly buff, and generally lack streaking. In Europe any grey or rusty tones are usually a result of contact with trees. The under-tail coverts and ventral area are scarlet and there is often a sharp demarcation between this area and the white lower belly: the red does not gradually fade or merge with the white it does on some other species. A long, black malar stripe runs from the bill across the cheek to the side of the neck, where it joins the post-auricular stripe and a lateral stripe running from the upper breast sides and a short joining stripe from the mantle and shoulder. These black lines meet below the ear-coverts. The post-auricular stripe continues across the face below the ear-coverts and reaches the nape. Thus, an enclosed white area is formed on the side of the face. No other European Dendrocopos woodpecker has this enclosed white face patch feature, as the post-auricular stripes on other species do not reach the nape. The forehead and lores are white and the nasal tufts black. The crown is glossy black. A black linking line runs from the nape down the hind-neck to the mantle. This stripe is joined at on each side by black post-auricular stripe thus birds seen from rear show a black "cross" on hind-neck. The upper-tail is matt black and under-tail a dull black-brown. The outer-most rectrix (T6) is black but hidden under the tail-covets. The adjacent two rectrices are white and maybe barred with black (in Syrian it is the reverse, the rectrices are mainly black and dotted with white). There is often some white on the third rectrix but all other tail feathers are plain black. The upper-wing is matt black and the wing-coverts glossy black. The under-wing coverts are smoky white with some black spots, wing feathers grey-black and heavily barred with white-buff. The flight feathers are black and dotted with rows of 5 or 6 white spots that almost form bars. The stocky, dagger-shaped bill is broad at the base and can comprise 60% of the skull length. It is grey to charcoal in colour with the base of the lower mandible paler. The eyes are usually dark red and the legs grey-olive. The photo here is of an adult male, taken in the UK (Bill Baston).