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.

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