Sunday, 21 December 2014


Best Wishes to All for the Festive Season & New Year !
Gerard Gorman

Monday, 17 November 2014

Gallery: White-backed Woodpecker male

Male White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. Bukk Hills, Hungary, November 2015 (Gerard Gorman).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Irati Forest, Spain

This new notice board at Irati Forest in Navarra, Northern Spain, shows the five woodpeckers (and information about them in English and French) present in this great habitat. Thank you to Alfonso Senosiain for the image.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Gallery: Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius adult male. Maliuc, Danube Delta, Romania (Eugen Petrescu).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Woodpecker damage ?

Here is a fine example of the foraging work of a Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. An impressively large hole has been opened up on this trunk, big enough for a man's hand to easily fit inside. Looking at this, it might be thought that the woodpecker has killed the tree.. but has it really? The tree here is also adorned with fungi and the woodpecker workings are fairly fresh, newer than the fungi. It is clear that the tree was already doomed before the woodpecker opened it up in search of the invertebrates that live inside the rotten timber. And that is the key point, that woodpeckers that hack into timber are looking for prey and most prey lives inside trees that are already dying or dead. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Urban Woodpeckers: Syrian Woodpecker

Across Europe (and indeed the world) there are woodpeckers which have adapted to live in urban environments. Here is an example, Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus, which is rarely found in forests proper, rather inhabiting open woodlands, orchards, parks, gardens etc, in rural villages, towns and in major cities. In this photo a bird clings to a wooden utility pole along a village street. (Gerard Gorman, Hungary, October 2014).  

Monday, 13 October 2014

Gallery: Female and nestling Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker

An adult female Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus feeding
a nestling. At this age, both chicks can show some yellow on the forecrown. Image taken in Lower Austria in spring 2014 by Thomas Hochebner.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Gallery: Black Woodpecker

An adult male Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius looks out from its nest-hole in a beech tree. Photo by Thomas Hochebner taken in Lower Austria.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

REVIEW -HBW & BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol 1

HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Del Hoyo, J. & Collar, with David A. Christie, Andrew Elliot & Lincoln D. C. Fishpool.

Published by Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, August 2014. Publisher's price 145 Euros. Hardback, 904 pages. ISBN 978-84-96553-94-1

With 357 colour plates, 8290 bird illustrations, range maps for all species and a bibliography of over 2000 references, this new bird checklist is an impressive work. It differs from previous lists in several ways, in particular in its inclusion of colour plates and distribution maps, and is thus the most colourful bird checklist ever produced. Most of the artwork is taken from the HBW series, with new paintings added where needed and some improved. Although first and foremost a checklist, this work might be viewed by some readers as simply an updated and concise edition of the non-passerine volumes of HBW, but the texts are more detailed than in a typical checklist, yet much more concise than in HBW, and the taxonomy is very different.
The taxonomic basis of this checklist is the so-called Biological Species Concept (BSC), which uses a flexible system of scoring based on morphological, vocal, ecological and geographical relationships, now known as the 'Tobias criteria', to indicate species. For more on this approach, see J.A. Tobias, N. Seddon, C.N. Spottiswoode, J.D. Pilgrim, L.D.C. Fishpool & N.J. Collar (2010). Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis. 152. Here, this method has resulted in much re-shuffling (lumping and splitting) by the authors of those taxons described in Lynx's own HBW series. There are 4372 extant species described in this volume of non-passerines, based on 21 'lumps', and 462 'splits', when compared with the taxonomy used in HBW, and compared to previous lists the species level has risen by around 10%. The taxonomic issues involved are outlined in a long and careful introduction where it might come as a surprise to some to find that often quoted, but not always clearly understood, DNA based taxonomic systems are not foremost, although they are taken into account. A key issue raised by this work's taxonomic system is conservation. For example, it becomes clear that regions such as the Philippines, the island of Java and Para State in Amazonian Brazil, are hotspots of species diversity, with many taxons under great pressure and threat, and hence these places, and the fauna found there, should be given prompt conservation priority. 
This volume covers the non-passerines and begins with the Ostriches and ends with the Parrots. As author of the recently published Woodpeckers of the World (Helm 2014), I immediately found myself examining pages 646 to 688 of this list, where the Picidae (woodpeckers) are covered in 254 'species'. This figure compares to 239 in Woodpeckers of the World, however this does not simply amount to 15 more 'species' as several which were lumped in my book have been split here (e.g. Dendrocopos leucotos owstoni to Amani Woodpecker Dendrocopos owstoni and Colaptes campestris campestroides to Pampas Flicker Colaptes campestroides), and others lumped (e.g. American & Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers and Golden-fronted & Velasquez's Woodpeckers). If the total number of 'species' in the two works are combined, a grand total of 261 results (which makes my already daunting task of finding all of the world's picids even more difficult!). 
This work is a triumph of research, editing and writing, and I am reluctant to find fault, however it is usual to do just that in a review, so here is my main gripe! In several instances, I found the use of English names uncomfortable, if not controversial. It seems that a standardisation of English vernacular bird names is still not on the horizon and this work does not really help in that regard. Clearly, when a new species is described, or results from a split, a new name needs to be found and here the authors generally approach this sensibly, although there is a lack of consistency. For example, the established name for Picus vaillantii is Levaillant's Woodpecker, but this is changed to Mahgreb Green Woodpecker (presumably to remove Mr Levaillant's name), but that of Kaempfer's Woodpecker, for example, is not. In addition, in the case of Dendropicos elliotii, the existing name Elliot's Woodpecker is not only retained, but Johnston's Woodpecker adopted for the split of its (former) johnstonii race to full species. Surely the authors had enough to do in finding and agreeing upon new names for new species without having to re-name existing ones? 
Obviously in a vast undertaking of this kind, some oversights are inevitable, and for future editions/up-dates, it might be noted that the distribution of Arrowhead Piculet Picumnus minutissimus is said to be 'from Guyana E to French Guiana' (and the range map reflects this), however there are actually no confirmed records of this taxon from outside Surinam. 
So, do you need this huge and not inexpensive checklist ? Well, even if you already have the HBW series, even if you are uncomfortable with the taxonomic system used or the creation of some English names, the answer simply has to be YES. This list is now a benchmark, a reference that is hard to ignored and which may (when Volume 2, the Passerines, is released in 2016) become the definitive checklist for birds. All in all, the authors, editors, designers and the publisher are to be congratulated. 
Gerard Gorman.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

More Black Woodpecker work

More foraging work by Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius. Some of the holes are burrows of wood-boring beetles, others are holes made by the woodpecker to access the beetles. The green cross is not a cry for help from the beetles or the tree ! - it's a trail marker. Buda Hills, Hungary, September 2014. Gerard Gorman

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Black Woodpecker work

Base of a tree opened up by Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius with discarded wood-chips and shredded timber. Another example of the tremendous excavating skills of this species. Austria, August 2014. Gerard Gorman. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

New book with woodpecker signs

My forthcoming book Pocket Guide to Tracks & Signs has some pages of European woodpecker content, of course! Here is a sample, it's due out officially in September. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Gallery: Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker female

A fine shot of an adult female (males have yellow on the crown) Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, race alpinus. Taken in Lower Austria in spring 2014 by Thomas Hochebner.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


I am very pleased and proud to tell you all that my new book WOODPECKERS OF THE WORLD is officially published today by Helm/Bloomsbury. Thanks to all of you who helped in various ways. Gerard Gorman.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Green Woodpecker female

Female Eurasian Green Woodpecker Picus viridis. Males have a red malar stripe. Taken in France by Yann Cambon.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Impressive Black Woodpecker work

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius is the only European woodpecker that can excavate trees like this. This huge cavity is a feeding site in a beech tree. The hand of the lady is for size-comparison. Photo taken in Slovakia in April, 2014, Gerard Gorman.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

New Book !

I have just received a pre-publication copy of my forthcoming book WOODPECKERS OF THE WORLD. It is due out in June. Here is a sample snap of the back cover with Great Spotted Woodpecker. I hope you like the look of it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Wryneck: a migratory woodpecker

Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla is a true migrant and the only migratory picid in Europe. Birds move south in the autumn and return to breeding areas in the spring. Most European breeders winter in Africa, although some stay in the Mediterranean region. This recently arrived bird was photographed in Slovakia yesterday, by Gerard Gorman. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Europe's rarest woodpecker

Europe's rarest woodpecker is probably the White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. It is largely absent from Western Europe (small numbers of the lilfordi race survive in the Spanish and French Pyrenees and the Appenines in Italy). It has declined badly in much of Scandinavia, but does seem to be doing quite well in Central and Eastern Europe. Lack of suitable, old, unmanaged forest and unfriendly forestry practises are the main causes of its demise in the west. It is a food specialist, mainly taking the larvae of wood-boring beetles from dead or dying trees and rotting timber. This is an adult male of the nominate race, taken recently in the Bukk Hills, Hungary, by Gerard Gorman. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Talk on woodpeckers in Austria

I will be giving a talk at the PANNONIAN BIRDEXPERIENCE in Eastern Austria this April. 
On two days as follows. See you there!

Friday 11.4.2014. 14:30 - 15:30
Saturday 12.4.2014. 12.30 - 13.30
Lecture: Woodpeckers of Pannonia
Location: Nat Park Ökopädagogikzentrum, 
Seminarraum, Illmitz, Burgenland, Austria.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Here is a very nice shot of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius. Taken at Cremenes, northern Spain by Carlos Gonzalez Bocos. Males and females are similar and it is difficult to sex this bird on this view.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Woodpeckers of the World cover

Here is the final cover for my forthcoming book Woodpeckers of the World. I hope you like it? Can you name the species ? Only one is from Europe...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Woodpecker head topography

Here is a sketch showing the important parts of a typical woodpecker's head and head plumage. When identifying and describing woodpeckers it is of course important to know and use the correct terms.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Syrian Woodpecker - an ID pointer

Syrian Woodpecker can easily be confused with Great Spotted Woodpecker. There are several subtle features in plumage which separate these two related species, with face pattern and vent colour perhaps the most obvious. However, the following feature is also often useful, especially if the face of a bird is obscured. The outer tail feathers of Syrian are mostly black with a few white spots, and those of Great Spotted Woodpecker are mostly white with a few black spots. See the tail of this Syrian Woodpecker photographed in Budapest, Hungary (Gerard Gorman).