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A photo of a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), male
Black Woodpecker, Male

Black Woodpecker

Dryocopus martius

The black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), a striking avian species, is the largest woodpecker in Europe and parts of Asia. With a body length ranging from 45 to 55 cm and a wingspan of 64 to 84 cm, it is a bird of considerable size. The species is characterized by its entirely black plumage, save for the red crown which is fully red in males and only partially so in females. Juveniles are less glossy with a duller red crown and a paler grey throat and bill.

Identification Tips

To identify the black woodpecker, look for its crow-sized stature and entirely black plumage contrasted with a vivid red crown. Males have a completely red crown, while females have a red patch only on the top hindcrown. The species also has piercing yellow eyes. Its flight pattern is distinctive, lacking the undulating motion common in other woodpeckers, and instead featuring slow, deliberate wing beats with the head held high.

Habitat

The black woodpecker favors mature forests, showing a preference for old-growth or large forest stands. It is a non-migratory bird that thrives in coniferous, tropical, subtropical, and boreal forests, from lowlands to elevations of up to 2,400 meters.

Distribution

This woodpecker's range extends from Spain across Europe, excluding the British Isles and northern Scandinavia, and into parts of Asia, including Korea, Japan, and China. Its distribution is more sporadic in Asia, and it is notably absent from the British Isles.

Behaviour

The black woodpecker is known for excavating large tree holes for nesting, which subsequently become habitats for various other species. It feeds primarily on carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle grubs, using its powerful bill to hammer into dead trees. The species plays a crucial role in forest ecosystems, both as a keystone species providing homes for others and as a regulator of wood-boring insect populations.

Song & Calls

The black woodpecker's vocalizations include a high-pitched, whistling "kree-kree-kree" call, typically uttered twice in succession, and a shrill screech emitted during flight.

Breeding

Breeding involves the excavation of a nesting chamber within a tree, often one affected by fungal disease. The female lays a clutch of two to eight eggs, with both parents sharing incubation and chick-rearing responsibilities. The young fledge after 18 to 35 days, remaining with the adults for an additional week.

Similar Species

The black woodpecker is similar in ecological niche to the pileated woodpecker of North America and the lineated woodpecker of South America. It also shares its range with the white-bellied woodpecker in Asia, though the latter is distributed further south.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the black woodpecker is predominantly composed of carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle grubs, which it extracts from within trees using its robust bill and neck muscles.

Conservation Status

The black woodpecker is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. While it has faced challenges due to deforestation, conservation efforts and forest restoration have led to population increases in some areas. However, it can sometimes be considered a nuisance due to damage to human structures and may face threats from predation and habitat loss.

Black Woodpecker Sounds




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A photo of a Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis) , male

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