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The Great spotted woodpecker

(or Pied woodpecker as it is sometimes called) is a magnificent looking bird with its black white and red plumage. At 9 inches (23cm) in length it is slightly smaller than the more familiar Blackbird. It can be seen and heard throughout the UK in woodlands and wooded gardens. Its loud sharp ‘chuk’ chuk’ call announces its presence from quite a distance. It is easy to tell the difference between the male female and juvenile Great spotted woodpecker because they have different markings. The juvenile male and female both have a red crown, the male’s covers most of the top of the head whilst the female’s is smaller. Adult males and females do not have a red crown which will disappear on the first moult. The male Great spotted woodpecker has a red patch at the back of the neck which the female does not have. It’s a male in the picture above.

You can temp them to visit your garden by putting out fat and nuts. When you observe birds which visit your garden you will notice that some birds are quite tame and others very nervous of humans. The Great spotted woodpecker is one of those birds which are very timid. At the very site of a human it will take flight and all you will ever see of it are its tail feathers. To observe one at close quarters you have to be concealed as they won’t approach if a human is visible. They visit my garden every day to feed on a mixture of fat and ground peanuts which I put into holes drilled in a tree branch which I use as a feeding station. Great spotted woodpeckers are one of three species of woodpecker which live in the UK. The others are the Lesser spotted woodpecker (which is similar but smaller) and the Green woodpecker. The Great spotted woodpecker like the others makes its nest in trees by drilling out a cavity using its very strong bill to chisel out the wood. The female Great spotted woodpecker lays five to seven creamy coloured eggs between April and June. They can be heard early in the year hammering on the trunks and branches of trees announcing their presence and searching for partners. The noise they make sounds very much like a ‘drum roll’. They feed mainly on insects but when these are in short supply they will eat nuts and berries.

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