Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis

21-33cm

Appearance

The biggest woodpecker found in the region. The body appears robust in comparison to other woodpeckers and the bill is thick. Both sexes are olive-green on the back, whitish-grey on the underparts, they have a red marking on the crown, a black section around the eye, and the rump is bright yellow (particularly visible in flight). Males have a 'moustache' marking that is black with red in the middle. Females have a similar marking, but her moustache is entirely black. Juveniles resemble the male but they are generously spotted and barred.

Habitat

Tends to stay in lower habitats, preferring woods, agricultural land and parks, and regularly feeds on grassland.

Character

Often eats off the ground where it hops along and can appear hunched over. When climbing a tree it uses tail feathers to balance. Is a shy bird who will try and use the tree for cover if it's observed. Usually seen alone when not breeding; has a place in close proximity to the nest from which it sings.

Food

Uses its lengthy, sticky tongue to peck insects out of their nests. Mostly eats ants in all their forms, from egg to adult, and also feeds on beetles, flies and caterpillars.

Breeding

Makes a hole-nest in the lower parts of trees between March and the middle of June. Female lays 4-6 eggs which both parents incubate for about 19 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings. After approximately 21 days the young can fly, but independence takes longer, between 3 and 7 weeks.

Population

The Green Woodpecker is a resident bird which doesn't usually travel far from breeding territory. Pairs in the UK exceed 52 000.

Observation Tips

Observation can be a challenge, as birds camouflage into leaves and are timid, avoiding humans where possible by altering their position on a tree. The song is perhaps the best way of finding this species. Central and southern England and Wales are where these birds are most heavily distributed.

Voice

Utters a melodious 'kiu-kiu-kiu' call which is quite repetitive. Also makes a soft drumming sound.
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