The Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a medium-sized woodpecker found across the Palearctic including parts of North Africa. These birds chisel into trees to find food or excavate nest holes, and also drum for contact and territorial advertisement; like other woodpeckers, they have anatomical adaptations to manage the physical stresses from the hammering action.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and ani...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Serial monogamy is a mating system in which a pair bonds only for one breeding season.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The upperparts of the Great spotted woodpecker are glossy blue-black, with white on the sides of the face and neck. Black lines run from the shoulder to the nape, the base of the bill, and about halfway across the breast. There is a large white shoulder patch and the flight feathers are barred with black and white, as is the tail. The underparts are white other than a scarlet lower belly and undertail. The bill is slate-black, the legs greenish-grey and the eye is deep red. Males have a crimson patch on the nape, which is absent from the otherwise similar females. Juvenile birds are less glossy than adults and have a brown tinge to their upperparts and dirty white underparts. Their markings are less well-defined than the adult's and the lower belly is pink rather than red. The crown of the juvenile's head is red, less extensively in young females than males.
Great spotted woodpeckers range across Eurasia from the British Isles to Japan, and in North Africa from Morocco to Tunisia; they are absent only from those areas too cold or dry to have suitable woodland habitat. Across most of their range, these birds are resident, but in the north, some will migrate when there are shortages of pine and spruce cones. Great spotted woodpeckers live in a wide variety of woodlands, broadleaf, coniferous or mixed, and in modified habitats like parks, gardens, and olive groves.
Great spotted woodpeckers are generally solitary or may sometimes be spotted in pairs. They spend much of their time climbing trees in search of food or excavating nest holes and also drum for contact and territorial advertisement. They feed at all levels of a tree and will use an "anvil" on which to hammer hard items, particularly pine, spruce, and larch cones, but also fruit, nuts, and hard-bodied insects. Easily accessible items are picked off the tree surface or from fissures in the bark; larvae are extracted by chiseling holes up to 10 cm (3.9 in) deep and trapping the soft insect with the tongue, which can extend far beyond the bill, and is covered with bristles and sticky saliva to trap the prey. Great spotted woodpeckers roost at night, and sometimes during the day, in old nest cavities, excavated by other woodpeckers. They will occasionally make a new roosting hole or use an artificial site such as a nest box. These woodpeckers communicate with a sharp 'kik' call, which may be repeated as a wooden rattling 'krrarraarr' if the bird is disturbed. The courtship call, 'gwig', is mostly given in the display flight. Drumming on dead trees and branches, and sometimes suitable man-made structures serves to maintain contact between paired adults and to advertise ownership of the territory. Both sexes drum, although the male does so much more often, mostly from mid-January until the young are fledged.
Great spotted woodpeckers are omnivores. They feed on beetle larvae and also take many other invertebrates including adult beetles, ants, and spiders. Crustaceans, mollusks, and carrion may be eaten, and bird feeders are visited for seeds, suet, and domestic scraps. The nests of other cavity-nesting birds may be raided for their eggs and chicks. Great spotted woodpeckers also eat nuts, conifer seeds, buds, berries, and tree sap.
These woodpeckers are serially monogamous forming pairs during the breeding period, but often change partners before the next season. They are strongly territorial, typically occupying areas of about 5 ha (12 acres) year-round, which are defended mainly by male. Courtship behavior includes a fluttering flight display of a male with shallow wingbeats and a spread tail. He calls in flight and may land at a prospective nest-site. After the pair was formed both birds excavate a new hole at least 0.3 m (1 ft) above the ground and usually lower than 8 m (26 ft). The chosen site is normally a tree, alive or dead, occasionally a utility pole or nest box. Old holes are rarely re-used, although the same tree may be used for nesting for several years. The nest cavity is 25-35 cm (9.8-13.8 in) deep with an entrance hole 5-6 cm (2-2.4 in) wide. It is excavated by both sexes, but the male is doing most of the chiseling. As with other woodpeckers, the hole is unlined, although wood chips from the excavation may cover the base of the cavity. The typical clutch is 4-6 glossy white eggs. They are laid from mid-April to June, the later dates being for birds breeding in the north of the range or at altitude. The eggs are incubated by either adult during the day and by the male at night, for 10-12 days before hatching. Both birds brood and feed the altricial naked chicks and keep the nest clean. The young fledge in 20-23 days from hatching. Each parent then takes responsibility for feeding part of the brood for about 10 days, during which time they normally remain close to the nest tree. Great spotted woodpeckers produce only one brood per year and the young become reproductively mature at the age of one year.
Great spotted woodpeckers are vulnerable to harsh winters and fragmentation of woodland which can cause local difficulties. The Canary Islands populations on Tenerife and on Gran Canaria face a potential threat from the exploitation of the local pine forests.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Great spotted woodpecker is 73,700,000-110,300,000 mature individuals. The European population consists of 12,900,000-19,300,000 pairs, which equates to 25,800,000-38,600,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.