Great-spotted woodpecker/Stor Flagspætte
The great-spotted woodpecker is a striking black and white bird with bright red under the tail. Males have a distinctive red patch on top of the head and young birds have a red crown. This bird is distributed over an immense range covering almost the entire Palearctic from Britain in the west to Japan in the east and reaching North Africa and the Canary Islands in the south-west. In recent times the great spotted has become the most familiar woodpecker due to regularly visiting bird tables in observer's gardens. The Great spotted woodpecker is an exciting garden visitor, and during the summer adult woodpeckers may be accompanied by their youngsters learning about the food available and how to obtain it.
In summer the great woodpecker live mainly of insects, especially caterpillars , in winter mostly of cones. A cone is harvested by the woodpecker holding it with one foot while attacking the stalk until it breaks. After wedging the cone in the anvil it is worked by rotation at regular intervals in order to obtain the seeds from all sides. An ornithologist recorded a single woodpecker which used two adjacent anvil trees and dealt with some 2000 cones in a single winter.
When hidden by the foliage, its presence is often advertised by the mechanical drumming, a vibrating rattle, produced by the rapidly repeated blows of strong bill upon a trunk or branch. This is not merely a mating call or challenge, but a signal of either sex. It is audible from a great distance, depending on the wind and the condition of the wood, a hollow bough naturally producing a louder note than living wood. The call is a sharp quet, quet.
Great woodpecker has like other woodpeckers some adjustments for its special habits. A unique cranium-construction does that the bird gets no concussion from drumming. This work combined with opening the cones in winter wear out the horn of the beak - and three beak-lengths are worn out during one year.
Great Woodpecker/Dansk Ornitologisk Forening
photo ⓒ 2007: grethe bachmann