Thanks Auntie Jane for this interesting post about woodpeckers – a bird I have to admit to never giving much thought to before! (edited from original post)
Woodpeckers in the UK do exist, however it is really unsusal to see them, especially in Urban Environments. I’ve probably seen four or five in the half century plus I’ve lived. Like the Kingfisher & other “colourful” species of birds, there aren’t many of them & while I expect if you see a drab black or brown bird in Africa, it’s something to talk about: here the opposite applies, so when you see a Woodpecker you have to # about it!
I saw my latest one, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (dendrocopus minor) up close & personal in the quietest part of a huge Supermarket car park, near Llandaff. This spot has turned into a regular, pleasant waiting place for those times when I need to pick someone up from the City centre, which these days is impossible (since Cardiff has become “green”) to stop anywhere even for 10 minutes.
So I was quietly whiling away an hour waiting to do pick-up duty. Having being inspired by the Whaz SUP #, I’d given up bottled water for a month, so I bought a coffee & settled down to wait quietist bit of the car park which happens to be right next door to a public footpath leading on to a river walk-way by the Taff & one of our big Cardiff parks: Pontcanna Fields
To my delight and amazement about 10 feet away from me on the ground, I spotted (pun awful but intended sorry!), not a bolshi Herring Gull for a change, but a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
I was it seems, really blessed to spot this little bird, one of our more unusual colourful residents, as their numbers are in decline and they are now considered to be a Priority Species. So it is reassuring to know that their preferred habitat (heavily wooded deciduous trees) in Cardiff is still supporting them here at least.
For those of you who don’t know too much or anything at all about them, here’s a bit of an introduction…
It’s worth talking a little about the way they feed, because it is pretty unusual. Young birds will supplement their diet by visiting bird-feeders, presumably until they get to large & heavy to do this any more?!
The adults have to work for theirs (sounds familiar) & get most of their daily intake by rapidly “drumming” insects up to the surface of trees by using their purpose made bills – this would give most of us brain injury, but thankfully they are perfectly adapted & this combined with a long tongue for rootling out the bugs as they are unwillingly vibrated up to the surface ensures that they can find the food they need.
There are only three native woodpeckers in the UK, the Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Green.
The Greater Spotted can be seen on the Mainland of the UK right up until the very Northern part of Scotland, they are about the size of a black bird. The youngsters have a red crown which disappears in adulthood & only the adult males sport a red spot on their backs. They are more often seen than heard with an annoying habit of being on the opposite side of the tree to bird-watchers! Like humans they aren’t averse to a free lunch & let’s face it, it must be less of a headache to check in to your local bird feeder rather than having to bang on branches all day , even if you do have to share with the odd Blue Tit!
The Lesser Spotted woodpecker is the smallest, rarest and most elusive of the three, which explains why most people will hear rather than see them & you have to have good hearing to catch their quiet tapping. . They generally don’t venture further North than just short of the border between England & Scotland. Only the males get to wear the bright red crown.
The Greater & Lesser can cause confusion, to the inexperienced , so I’m not certain now which it was that I actually saw – but it was a brilliant treat from Mother Nature either way!
Last and by no means least I give you the UK Heavyweight Champion : the Green woodpecker.
They sport red on the top of their heads, green backs, a bright yellow rear & a black ‘tache, you can tell males & females apart as only the males have a red centre to their moustaches. They must be related to Woody Woodpecker as they share a “laugh”! or maybe not..
Life as woodpecker can be harsh at times it seems, and it isn’t only about trees be frozen so you can’t get your grub (groan), as this remarkable photograph taken in the UK by an amateur photographer Martin-le-May early in 2014.
Unlike many of the European birds & animals the woodpecker seems quite absent in European folklore. The native Americans, however– who those of you who knew Jeremy already know, had a great interest in and affinity with given their respect for nature & the environment, have quite a few intriguing stories about Woodpeckers, you might want to check out.
Hmm, now I have got the Woodpeckers off my brain, I am starting to wonder about weasels…