Great Spotted Woodpecker Bird Introduction

All of Europe, except Ireland and the most northern areas, provides a home for one of the most abundant of woodpeckers — the great spotted woodpecker also called pied woodpecker.


Usually heard before it is seen, the woodpecker gets its name from its habit of hammering resonantly on dry wood. This announces its presence to other woodpeckers of course, but may also have the effect of stirring up the larvae of wood-boring insects, on which it feeds.

The alternative names of the great and lesser Spotted woodpecker also help to distinguish them: the great is also known as the pied woodpecker because its plumage appears at a glance to be large solid patches of black and white; the lesser, sometimes called the barred woodpecker, has those distinctive white bars across its back.

Bird Information and Facts



Great Spotted Woodpecker has a black back and white breast, black wings with a white flash and narrow white bars at the end, bright splash of red feathers under the longish tail ; beige-white forehead and white around the eyes, black cap (red in Juveniles) and a band of red on the back of the neck, with bands of black running from it to the bill and wings. The female adult lacks the red on the neck.

Length: 23 cm. The male has a red patch on the nape.
Voice: A loud ‘kik’ or ‘chick’. In spring it drums with its beak on the trunks or branches of trees. A short sharp chick, usually single but sometimes repeated to form a chattering sound.
Size of Egg: 20.0—29.5 X 15.4—21.8 mm.


Great spotted woodpecker bird is seen throughout Britain except the very far north, absent from Ireland.

Similar Species

The lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor), which is much smaller at 15cm (6 in.); Male lesser bird retains in adulthood the red cap that both it and the great spotted woodpecker had as juvenile. The lesser also has clear white bars on its back, wings and tail feathers, and lacks the great’s flash of red under the tail. Lesser spotted woodpecker has a different call (a high-pitched pee-pee-pee) and is also much rarer, confused largely to England and Wales.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Denrocopos major) Habitat

It stays for the winter in most areas, though it is also a transient migrant out of the breeding season, but inhabitants of northern Europe sometimes journey south in large flocks. Why they undertake such a long trip is as yet not understood. The great spotted woodpecker occurs in woodlands of all types, in the mountains up to the tree line, but is also found in large numbers in parks and large gardens, orchards and tree avenues.


In the winter it often roams the countryside in the company of nuthatches and tits, and will visit a garden feeding tray to nibble sunflower seeds or suet. In spring both partners, though mainly the male, drill a hole about 30 centimetres deep in the trunk of a deciduous or coniferous tree, often using the same cavity for several years.



The female great spotted woodpecker lays 5 to 6 eggs, which she and the male take turns incubating for 12 to 13 days. The parents feed the young from the beak, and consequently must bring food to the nest much more often than the green or black woodpecker. At first, they make about 40 trips a day, but when the young are some 10 days old the daily trips can total 150 or more. For this reason, the prey must be hunted in the immediate neighborhood of the nest.

The diet consists mainly of insects and their larvae. At the age of 21 to 23 days the young abandon the cavity but remain in the vicinity of the nest. Adult birds also feed on various seeds and grain.

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