photo credit: Marco Hebing
Whilst superficially resembling the lesser spotted woodpecker this species is far more likely to be seen. Not only is it larger and far more common but the rump is a right, bright scarlet which is typically missing in the other species.
The great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a smart-looking bird with mottled black and white plumage. The long beak used for drilling holes and finding food is clear but the most noticeable factors are the bright red on the top of the head and the rump making this an easy to distinguish bird.
As with many woodpeckers they are most often seen clinging onto the trunk of a tree in a vertical position while searching for food.
These birds are most often seen in deciduous woodland which provide them with both nesting places and food. They may ocassionally be attracted to gardens but are generally rarer in this habitat than the green woodpecker with it’s characteristic “yaffle” call.
The great spotted woodpecker typically favours and insectivorous diet of grub and caterpillars. These are often found under the bark of trees and one may observe a woodpecker carefully listening for telltale signs of grubs when perching on a tree. They may feed on peanuts or fat balls in a garden environment.
These birds may be seen very early in the year searching for mates. It is not uncommon even in December to see two or more great spotted woodpeckers chasing each other around a forest making their squaking call while they choose a mate for the following season.