Green Woodpecker

(Picus viridis)

Alert Status: Green - 145% increase
Identifying Features: Largest of the woodpeckers with green back & wings. The crown & nape are red and the male has a black moustache with a red centre; the female has a completely black one.
Average Length: 30 - 33 cm
Average Lifespan: 5 Years
Average Wingspan: 40-42 cm
Beak type: Specialist

Feeding:
Natural: Ants, beetles, caterpillars and other insects
How to feed: Ground feeders
What to feed: Meal worms, fruit

Nesting: Built in a tree hole
Where to see: Widespread across the UK. Found on the ground of short grass in gardens & parklands

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Green Woodpecker by Paul Driver, Xeno-ca
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Fascinating Facts

The green woodpecker is the largest of the UK's three woodpeckers, that breed in Britain. With its heavy-looking body, and distinctive colour, this bird is unmistakable. Look out for its bright green plumage, yellow rump and red crown. The checks are black, with males having a red streak just below. The tail is rather short compared to other woodpeckers. Juvenile green woodpeckers have streaks of grey, with hints of green starting to appear as the bird matures.

Green woodpeckers are rather vocal and have a recognisable loud, laughing call, known as a ‘yaffle’. This is often the only clue to knowing one is nearby as they tend to be quite shy and wary. Your best chance of a prolonged view is to watch it hunt for ants on the ground.

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Although green woodpeckers can pair for life, they prefer their own company out of the breeding season and spend most of the year, living alone. A pair may split, roost near to each other throughout the winter and then re-establish the relationship. Finding each other using their loud calls.

The male will take between 15 and 30 days to hollow out a nest. Choosing an old deciduous tree, this hard work pays off as these holes can last for 10 years or so and will often be reused. Breeding takes place during April, usually having one brood of five to seven eggs. Both sexes will incubate the eggs and also look after the young.

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A green woodpeckers diet is all about ants…. Ants, ants and more ants! They will use their beak to dig into the ground, and their specially adapted long sticky tongue to extract them. 

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 They will also eat other insects, pine seeds and fruit when ants become hard to find. Compared to other woodpeckers, green woodpeckers have relatively weak bills and rarely drum to communicate.

The Green woodpecker has been given many folk names over the years, most commonly the ‘yaffle’ after its well-known call. Rain bird is another, as the birds are reputed to call more when rain is imminent.

 

Lastly, we can’t forget Professor Yaffle, whose character from Bagpuss is loosely based on the Green woodpecker!