The first woodpecker of 2020 was heard today, wed 5th February, on Cherry Orchard Nature Reserve. It’s not unusual to hear the tapping of these birds at this time of year.
Of the three species of woodpecker found in Britain, the great spotted is the most likely to be seen in our gardens at any time of the year but during February it isn’t the sight of one which is most appealing, but the sound.
Now is the time the trees begin to take a hammering as great spotted woodpeckers establish their territories.
These starling-sized black and white birds don’t have a song to advertise ownership of their chosen patch of woodland, so they make themselves known by drumming on dead trees with their powerful bills.
The Great spotted woodpecker is the most common of only three species of woodpecker in the UK, the other two being the Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor) and the Green woodpecker (Picus viridus). It is present all year round, apart from in extreme northern parts of Scotland, and is famed for its rapid drumming on the sides of trees. The Great spotted woodpecker is, without a doubt, one of the more striking species of bird in the UK.
Of colourful hue and memorable pattern, the Great spotted woodpecker is a stout bird, with black and white spotted wings and two main red patches (head and underbelly); the scarlet patch on the back of the (male) woodpecker’s head is a distinct and unique feature. A simple confusion can often emerge from the fact a young Great spotted woodpecker displays a scarlet patch on top of its head, which disappears after the first moult; these young birds can be easily identified as Lesser spotted woodpeckers, when in fact they’re not.