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Great Spotted Woodpecker


The Great Spotted Woodpecker is 22-23 cm long, with a 34-39 cm wingspan. Males have a crimson spot on the nape, which is absent in females and juvenile birds. Despite its contrasting plumage, the Great Spotted Woodpecker is often an inconspicuous bird.

The nesting hole, is 5-6cm in diameter, neat and round, is bored in soft or decaying wood horizontally for a few inches, then perpendicularly down. At the bottom of a shaft, usually from six to twelve inches in depth, a small chamber is excavated and lined with wood chips.

This woodpecker shows no marked preference for particular tree. The creamy-white eggs are laid in May. When hatched, the young cluster at the mouth of the hole and keep up a continuous chatter when the parents are feeding them, but when alarmed slip back into the hole. The nest hole is rarely used by the same bird again, but often other holes are bored in the same tree.

The drumming sound produced by the woodpecker is from the correct frequency of knocks (10-40 strikes per second) to make the timber resonate, they avoid getting a headache by having shock-absorbent tissue at the base of the skull. Their diet is mainly insects hidden under bark or in dead wood, but also tree seeds and birds' eggs.




20-24 days

14-16 days

Clutch Size
4-6 eggs

Egg Weight
5.7 g

Recorded Age
10 years, 9 months

Egg Size
27x20 mm

First Record
10th Century

Forest, woodland, towns

2 years

34-38 cm

22- 23 cm

Status in UK
Resident Breeder / scarce visitor

Conservation Status UK

Number in Britain

First clutches laid
Early May

Number of broods

First Breeding
1 year

Quick Facts

  • The nest is hollowed out by both sexes, which may be used again in following seasons.
  • A clutch of white eggs are laid which take 12 days to hatch with both sexes incubating them.
  • Once the brood have left the nest the parents will carry on feeding them for the first 10 days.
  • The major cause of death to juvenile woodpeckers is flying into windows.
  • Before their first moult the juveniles are recognised by their red caps.
  • Only the male has a red patch on the back of the neck.
  • To soften the force of the drumming, woodpeckers have shock – absorbent tissue between the base of the bill and skull.
  • The Woodpeckers’ main diet are insects, although, in the winter tree seeds supplement their diet and birds’ eggs and fledglings in the spring. When visiting a feeding site their favourite food is suet and peanuts.
  • A paired male may drum 200 times a day but a unpaired male as many as 600 times.  Both sexes have been known to drum on  various objects including weather vanes to metal poles.
  • Drumming is first heard in January and continues until June and is used by both sexes to make contact.

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