There are three woodpeckers that breed in Britain – the Green woodpecker, the Greater woodpecker and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The Green woodpecker is the largest of the three. Here are ten interesting facts about these colourful birds.
#1: The scientific name for a Green woodpecker is Picus viridis
The Green woodpecker is from the Picidae family of birds and is a member of the Piciformes order. It was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. (Linnaeus was the Swedish botanist who formalised the modern system of naming organisms and known as the father of modern taxonomy).
#2: They’re easily recognisable
Green woodpeckers have a sturdy-looking body, with a short tail and long beak. They have a green upper body a bright yellow rump, a black moustache, a light green belly and a redhead. The males have a red centre in the middle of their moustache, whilst the females have a paler red colour on their head. Younger Green woodpeckers will have plumage streaked in grey.
#3: Green woodpeckers spend most of their time on the ground
We tend to imagine birds spending their day sitting in a tree, but the Green woodpecker actually spends most of its time on the ground! They love short grass, as it provides the perfect feeding environment for them, so you’re most likely to see them sat on your lawn or in the local park.
#4: The Green woodpecker is visible all year round
They’re active throughout the year, so you’re able to see Green woodpeckers any time, as we at Grim’s Dyke can attest! If you can’t see them, you’ll certainly hear them, busily drumming on the soft trees around the grounds.
#5: Woodpeckers breed in holes
Woodpeckers peck holes in dead wood, so they have somewhere to breed; and the Green woodpecker is no different. However, the Green woodpecker does have a slightly weaker beak than other woodpeckers, so prefers to select softer or dead wood.
#6: Green woodpeckers love insects
They survive on a diet of insects, but ants are their favourite food source. They’re well known for digging into ant colonies, with their strong beaks and eating the inhabitants.
#7: They return to their favourite eating spots
If you know where a Green woodpecker eats ants, you’re sure to see it on a regular basis! Green woodpeckers will return to their favourite ant hill to feed.
#8: They’re popular in the UK
There are an estimated 52,000 breeding pairs of Green woodpecker in the UK, with sightings around Wales, Scotland and England. Interestingly though, they’re absent from the far north and west of the UK, as well as Ireland and the Isle of Man, plus they were only colonised on the Isle of Wight in 1910. This leads scientists to believe that they have a reluctance to cross water.
#9: Otherwise known as…
The Green woodpecker is known by a variety of names, including Common the Eurasian green woodpecker, the European green woodpecker and the Yaffle.
#10: They’re quite antisocial!
Green woodpeckers tend to pair for life, however, they spend most of their year alone. They may well roost near each other in winter, but they’ll only re-establish the courtship and spend time together, during the mating season.