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Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Feeding
Surprisingly this Woodpecker is not actually that ‘great’ and is only about the size of a starling. They are black and white with striking white shoulder patches and a bright red under tail. Males have a red patch on the nape which distinguishes them from females. Juveniles have a red crown and blotchy white shoulder patches but look quite similar to the older Woodpeckers. Their characteristic drumming noise is a good identification feature and also has the same function as a bird’s song, which is to proclaim their territory. They have long been associated with water and some people believe that the sound of a Woodpecker drumming away can indicate that rain is on its way! Amazingly they strike a branch with their bill over 40 times a second to create this drumming sound! They have stiff tail feathers which they use as a prop when hopping up trees, and to assist with its grip their toes are specially arranged with two toes pointing forward and two facing backwards. These feet are called zygodactyls.
Nesting
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is one of the most adaptable Woodpeckers and can live in various habitats as long as there are trees. They particularly favour oak and horn beam trees and are most common in woodland areas with these types of trees, as well as parks and gardens. They can even be found in the middle of cities providing there are tall trees. Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest in old trees, excavating a hole using their strong bills and lining the nest with wood chips. They lay a single brood of 4-7 glossy white eggs which they incubate for 10-13 days. Great Spotted Woodpeckers live for up to ten years and every year they excavate a new nest hole. This means they leave lots of potential nest sites for other hole nesting birds and animals.
About
Great Spotted Woodpeckers need large trees to make their nests and also like dead trees as these provide a good food source. If there was a decline in this type of woodland there could be severe consequences on their numbers. They probe tree trunks for insects and larvae and use their long, sticky tongue to extract insects from their nests and crevices. They also eat tree sap, nuts, berries, seeds and fat in winter, and in spring they will take the eggs and young of other birds from their nests and nest boxes! They have become common visitors to gardens all over the UK except for in Ireland where there are no Woodpeckers. In gardens they are not often seen on the ground but are increasingly seen at bird tables and feeders and will happily tuck into peanuts, sunflower seeds and fat.
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