Bird Families

Description of the Green Gray Woodpecker from the Red Book


Among woodpeckers there is one of the largest and at the same time shy representatives of European brethren, striking in the color of its plumage. green woodpecker.

The fact that he is in the forest is evidenced by his loud singing and huge hollows in the trees, which the bird gouges with its beak. In order to get such hollows, the beak must be strong and sharp enough.

To a greater extent bird green woodpecker loves to sing in the forest in the springtime. We all have known the sound of these birds for a long time. But few people know that with the help of this knock they communicate with each other. The sounds of woodpeckers knocking become more frequent during the mating season.

In order for the sounds to be clear and loud, woodpeckers hit dry tree branches with their strong beaks. These beaks help birds to find food for themselves in winter, which is deep under snow drifts.

Features and habitat of the green woodpecker

The green woodpecker belongs to the woodpecker family and the order of woodpeckers. Concerning descriptions of the green woodpecker, then the bird reaches 25-35 cm in length, its average weight ranges from 150 to 250 g and a wingspan of 40-45 cm.

A distinctive feature of the birds is the color of the plumage, all in green tones. Their top is more olive, and the lower part of the body is light green. At the top of the head and on the back of the head of the bird, red feathers, resembling a hat, are striking.

The feathers in front around the beak and eyes are colored black. The bird's beak is gray, and its mandible is yellow. The iris of the eyes is yellow-white in color. In place under the beak are feathers resembling a mustache.

Their color can be used to distinguish female green woodpecker from the male. Females have black antennae, while males have black color diluted with red. The woodpecker has four toes, two of which are directed forward and two backward. They help keep the bird upright in the tree. In this case, the tail of the green woodpecker, consisting of hard feathers, serves as insurance.

On photo green woodpecker merges with the overall picture of the forest. Only his little red cap stands out, which is dazzling and striking. Only thanks to this cap does the bird become noticeable in the green colors of the forest.

The West of the Eurasian continent, Northern Iran, Transcaucasia, Turkey, Scandinavia, Scotland are the places where this bird can be found. They also exist in Russia and Ukraine. Some of the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, Macaronesia and Ireland are also favorite spots for green woodpeckers.

These birds prefer to live in parks, gardens and deciduous forests. Coniferous and mixed forests are not quite to their taste. Green woodpeckers are most comfortable in the open landscape, in alder forests, oak forests bordering on forest ravines.

Coppices, forest edges and forest islets are places where these birds can also be found in frequent cases. The most important thing for the green woodpecker when nesting is the presence of large anthills, because ants are their Sami favorite delicacy.

Green woodpeckers become most active during the mating season. This always falls at the beginning of the spring season. It is at this time that you can most often hear the voice of the green woodpecker, accompanied by his periodic screams and mating flights. It is a sedentary bird. If ever she can be forced to migrate, it is only too short distances.

The nature and lifestyle of the green woodpecker

You can contemplate these birds throughout the year. He likes to sit on the tallest trees in parks, but you can also spot him in heather thickets. During the winter season, green woodpeckers can move to open areas.

These birds do not spend all the time in the tree. In frequent cases, they descend to the ground in order to rummage in the forest floor and unearth food for themselves. In addition, they easily break rotten stumps and ravage large anthills with the same purpose in order to find food for themselves.

The bird is very shy and cautious, so it is almost impossible to see it up close. Can only be heard, most often in the spring. They prefer to lead a hidden lifestyle, especially when there are babies in the nest.

Green woodpeckers move by jumping and flying. Green woodpeckers prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. They form a couple only during the mating season and the maturation of their offspring.

Birds make nests on old trees, and live in them for a long time. If they have a desire to change their place of residence, then the new nest is located no further than 500 meters from the old one.

It usually takes about a month for woodpeckers to build a home for themselves. The hollow of this bird can be seen at a height of 2 to 12 meters in willow, blue, poplar, birch and beech. Birds fly in waves, flapping their wings during takeoff.

As a result of the vital activity of people who cut down forests and use pesticides, the number of these birds is sharply reduced, therefore green woodpecker listed in Red Book.

Description of the bird

For the first time, a description of the bird appeared in 1788 through the efforts of the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin. According to the classification, the gray-headed woodpecker belongs to the woodpecker and has two varieties: Sumatran and with black hair.

The maximum lifespan of this species is 5 years. However, on the territory of Belarus, there were cases of life expectancy over 7 years.

What does it look like

The green woodpecker is a medium-sized bird that looks twice the size of the common spotted woodpecker, but smaller than the green one. Its body length ranges from 25 to 28 cm, its wingspan is about 40 cm.

The weight of an adult member of the species is about 140 grams. The characteristic color is greenish-grayish. The color of the inhabitants of the northern areas of the range is not too bright, and the color of the tropical inhabitants is more saturated.

The head is gray and the lower part of the body is darker in color. A distinctive feature of this species is the distribution of black and red plumage areas on the head: it has only a small spot.

At the same time, there are no seasonal changes in color in representatives of the species. The female differs from the male by the absence of a red spot on the head.

A black stripe extends from the base of the beak towards the eye, which is a distinctive feature of the species. The underside of the wing of an individual is white with gray transverse specks, and the coloring of axillary feathers is greenish. On the back, the plumage is olive green.

The feet are greenish-gray. The beak is brilliant gray with a yellowish base of the mandible.

The speed of the bird's knocking is so high that a person cannot follow these movements. It can reach 20 beats per second.

The tail deserves special attention in the characteristics of the species. It is sharp at the end and is used as a prop when knocking. For life, the tail is erased on the trunk of a tree by 10%.

Character and lifestyle

The gray woodpecker has a wave-like flight with alternating sliding and climbing. In the pre-nesting period, individuals are especially noisy, and after creating a nest, they become secretive and silent.

When excited, emit a series of choking sounds. Their voice is more like a whistle that can be heard for hundreds of meters. The bird knows how to masterfully move through the trees. It rises in rapid jumps up the trunk, resting its tail against the hard bark.

The woodpecker does not rise directly, but in a spiral.

He often descends from trees to the ground to find an ant or a larva for food. Unlike other species, both male and female gray woodpeckers hollow hollows. Sometimes it is occupied by an old hollow, thrown by other birds.

What eats

Not much is known about the nutrition of the species: ants are the main food for chicks and adults. This species differs from the green woodpecker in a more varied diet.

It includes spiders, adults, termites larvae, beetles, caterpillars and crickets. Despite the small size of the bird, it has a very long and sticky tongue.

Thanks to the length of the tongue, reaching 10 cm, a woodpecker can eat a thousand ants at a time.

In winter, birds eat plant food: tree fruits (apples, pears), berries, nuts, seeds and acorns. They often visit feeders in search of food. In the springtime, woodpeckers drink maple (holly) sap.

Where dwells

The main habitat of the species remains broad-leaved Eurasian forests - deciduous, coniferous and mixed. It is found in the territory from Western Europe to Sakhalin. They are also found in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. The green woodpecker has also been spotted in the Urals and western Siberia.

To create nests in natural conditions, birds use old trees with a rotten core. For nesting, they choose areas near lakes, meadows and clearings.


Individuals are ready for reproduction after the first year of life. The mating season begins at the end of winter and lasts almost until the end of spring. During this period, males sing and land near the object of courtship with a noisy flapping of their wings.

Sometimes males ritually feed the female. During the mating season, males become especially aggressive. When competitors appear in the nearby territory, they expel them, thereby marking their possessions.

Couples formed during this time stop roaming and choose a place to create a nest. For the construction, which will take 10-20 days, softwood trees are selected. They choose a hollow at a level of 2 meters from the ground, but not higher than 8 meters. Its bottom is lined with rotten wood.

The female lays 4 to 10 eggs, which are incubated by a pair in turn for 3 weeks. Cubs are fed from beak to beak with half-digested food. The chicks leave the nest a month later, after which they begin their own life without parents.

Natural enemies

Since woodpeckers are small birds, hawks (sparrowhawk and goshawk) pose the greatest threat to them. Forest martens are considered natural enemies.

The danger also comes from foxes, since the remains of birds are periodically found near their holes. There are also isolated cases of ruining their nests by flying squirrels.

The literature also mentions the case of an attack on a gray-headed woodpecker's nest by large variegated brethren.


The gray-headed woodpecker belongs to sedentary birds, therefore it hibernates in its habitat. Therefore, their movement can be seen only during the search for food. However, this happens only within the nesting territories.

In winter, woodpeckers are practically inaudible, but they often visit feeders in search of food. If there is not enough food, they can be found in the trash heaps. They can sometimes be seen on old wooden houses. They examine the cracks between the boards for insects.

Gray-headed woodpecker in the Red Book

This species is included in the Red Book of Lithuania and is protected in several regions of the Russian Federation. Due to the sharp decline in the number of individuals in the Carpathians, the gray-headed green woodpecker was listed in the Red Book of Ukraine.

The main causes of extinction

There are three main reasons for the decline in the population. The first is associated with the reduction of dead and decaying trees as a result of sanitary felling. The second reason is the disappearance of forest ants from urban forests.

The replacement of the natural woody environment in river valleys with herbaceous parks was also the culprit for the appearance of the threat of extinction of birds.

That is why the gray-headed woodpecker belongs to a species that has disappeared in Moscow and the Moscow region. However, the possibility of recovery in the future is not completely lost.

Current population situation

Since 1990, there has been a gradual recovery of the population in the European part due to mild winters. At the moment, between 180,000 and 320,000 nesting pairs live in this area. Globally, however, the decline continues.

Do I need to take measures to protect

To preserve the population, it is necessary to apply restrictive measures. Therefore, when paired individuals are found, a land plot is allocated with limited recreational use.

When renewing forest belts, it is necessary to leave areas with perennial specimens with rotten filling. This is an effective measure to provide birds with habitat.

Interesting facts about the bird

There are some interesting facts about the gray-headed woodpecker. The most common ones are:

  1. The ancient Romans considered it a sacred bird, so they did not use it for food.
  2. Among the two hundred species, there are unique specimens that live in deserts. Instead of tree trunks, they use large cacti as dwellings.
  3. There are also earthy representatives of the species in the world. They make holes in the ground.
  4. Even stranger are red woodpeckers living in the neighborhood with poisonous insects - fire ants. Moreover, the females lay eggs in the anthill and incubate them calmly. At the same time, the ants do not try to drive away the bird that feeds on the inhabitants of their nest.

Gray-headed woodpeckers are not the most positive representatives of the fauna. They often destroy the nests of other birds. However, it is interesting not only for scientists to watch him.

Eating the green woodpecker

In order to find food for themselves, green woodpeckers descend to the ground, in this they differ significantly from their counterparts. They love ants and their pupae.

In order to extract this delicacy, they are helped by a huge and 10 cm long tongue, which has increased stickiness. They are especially fond of red ants. In addition to ants, earthworms, various small bugs and larvae are used.

Winter green woodpecker pulls his food out from under the snow. If he does not find anything, he does not refuse to feast on berries, for example, rowan. Sometimes a woodpecker can eat a snail and even a small reptile. It is interesting to watch how these birds hunt ants.

They destroy the anthill in one place and wait for the worried inhabitants to appear on the surface. As soon as they appear, a long bird's tongue is used, with which they attract prey. After satiety, the bird leaves, but time passes and it returns to the same place to repeat its meal. Green woodpeckers are food lovers.

In order to feed their chicks, parents do not appear at the nest too often. They accumulate food in the goiter, from which they gradually regurgitate it to babies. Therefore, in frequent cases, their nest seems to be absolutely non-residential.

Species: Picus viridis = Green Woodpecker

Appearance. All green, the top of the head is red, the forehead and edging of the eye are black, the “whiskers” are wide black in males with red streaks. Young birds with frequent dark streaks, no “whiskers”. Uppertail is yellow-green.

The voice is sharper than that of the gray-haired woodpecker. Emits a loud laughing cry “glue-glue-glue” or gradually fading “glitch-glitch-glitch-glitch”. Almost never taps trills and rarely hollows tree trunks.

Habitat. Lives mainly in deciduous forests, gardens and parks.

Food. It feeds mainly on ants and their pupae, which it extracts from the nest with the help of a long sticky tongue.

Nesting places. It nests in more or less light deciduous, rarely mixed forests.

Location of the nest. It nests in hollows, which it gouges mainly in rotten trees, more often in aspens, often in willows.

Building material of the nest. The litter is wood dust.

The shape and size of the nest. The hollow is very regular in shape with a round or oval hole, located at different heights from the ground.

Features of masonry. There are 5-9 white eggs in a clutch. Egg sizes: (33-34) x (22-23) mm.

Breeding dates. Begins nesting in early May. Incubation lasts 15-17 days. Chicks stay in the nest for up to three weeks. The emergence of young birds is observed in the first half of June. The flight begins in early September.

Spread. Distributed in the middle zone of European Russia and the Caucasus.

Wintering. A resident, sometimes nomadic bird.

Description of Buturlin. Among our birds, there are few species with such a beautiful coloration as this woodpecker. In an old bird, the upper side of the body is green, the loin is yellowish, the abdomen is pale greenish, with dark transverse stripes. The upper side of the head is red. The male also has a red stripe along the bottom of the cheeks. In the female, this stripe is black. The eyes are yellowish-white, the beak is blackish with a yellow base of the lower jaw. In size, the green woodpecker is second only to the bile (its length is about 31 centimeters). He is as noisy as she is, but is noticeably different in that he feeds more readily on the ground than on trees.

Together with the gray-headed woodpecker, the green one is not without reason singled out into the group of “earthen woodpeckers”. He can often be seen digging in anthills, and on his beak, you can find lumps of clay adhering to it. In Dagestan, I saw green woodpeckers crawling along steep earthen cliffs away from the forest and even individual trees. The usual habitat of this species is forests of broad-leaved species, less often mixed or conifers. Especially good for the green woodpecker are forest edges, copses, forest islets alternating with glades and clearings, where there are many sunny places and ant heaps. In such places, the green woodpecker settles, choosing separate old trees for nesting, in which it makes a hollow at a height of 2 to 10 meters.

In the middle lane and in Ukraine, it is a rather rare woodpecker; a pair from a pair settles here at a great distance. But in some places of the North Caucasus, Transcaucasia, for example, in the liana oak forests of southern Dagestan, the green woodpecker is a common bird - his cry can simply get bored. His voice is clear, like “q, q, q, q, q, q. ”, And individual shouts, at first lower and lingering, towards the end increase and accelerate. He flies easily and more willingly than desirable, embarks on long flights.

Collecting food on the ground, in anthills, and rarely gouging its food out of trees, the green woodpecker is forced to fly away from the northern part of its nesting area for the winter, where it is especially difficult to feed in the cold season. Every year in spring and autumn, passing green woodpeckers appear in the Voronezh region, on the Don and in the Ukraine. However, a small part of green woodpeckers remain to winter even in such cold and snowy places as the Trans-Volga region of the Gorky region. Getting to the ants in winter, the green woodpecker (and the gray-headed one too) digs deep holes (up to 50 centimeters) in the thickness of the ant heaps. In the Caucasus, the green woodpecker lives sedentary.

At the beginning of May, he becomes even more loud and lively than usual, his spring call is often heard: “Glu, Glu, Glu, Gluck, Glukkukukkuk. “In the middle of May in the hollow you can find a full clutch of eggs (usually 6, sometimes 8), their length is 28-33 mm. At the end of June, you can see the young, already flying, dimmer than the old ones.

In addition to ants and their pupae, which serve as the usual food for the green woodpecker, he sometimes exterminates bees, got them near the hives or smashed the boards hung in the forest. According to some observations, the green woodpecker also eats nuts, acorns and berries. The green woodpecker could be considered harmful if it were not so rare in our country almost everywhere that the harm from it should not be taken into account.

The area of ​​distribution of this species in our country is relatively small. From Western Europe, he comes to us in the areas lying to the south of the line drawn from Lake Ladoga to Kostroma and Kazan. On average, the Volga region to the east, it does not go beyond the Volga, and even more so into the Kama basin. To the south of this line, it nests wherever it finds convenient places, up to the Caucasus inclusive. Not found in Crimea.

The green woodpecker forms four subspecies in our country. In the tugai (riverside forests) of Turkmenistan, a close to green scaly woodpecker, which penetrates to us from Iran and Afghanistan, keeps.

The status of the species on the territory of the country and in adjacent regions

The species is listed in the Red Data Book of the Moscow (cat. 2) and Lipetsk (cat. 4) regions and the Republic of Mordovia (cat. 3), recommended for inclusion in the Red Data Book of the Tula region (cat. 4). In the Nizhny Novgorod and Tambov regions, it is included in the list of species in need of control over their condition.

Distribution and numbers

Europe from the Atlantic coast to the east to the Volga valley (1). In the Ryazan region, it is located at the southern border of the range. At nesting and during nesting time observed in Kasimovskiy, Klepikovskiy, Saraevskiy, Spasskiy, Ryazanskiy, Shatskiy and Shklovskiy districts (2-5). The distribution is of a point nature. Small in number. Does not form a continuous nesting population, nests in isolated pairs. In years with a higher abundance, the closest distance between two nearest pairs is 1 km. In the Oksky Nature Reserve, no more than 20-30 pairs live throughout the territory. 1986-1988 the population density was 0.11-0.43 pairs / km 2. Irregular nesting is characteristic. In the vicinity of the village. Brykin Bor for the period from 1984 to 2000. the green woodpecker nested for only 9 years with interruptions of 2-4 years, and in 2001-2010. nesting of two pairs was noted only in 2001 (6, 7). In 2006-2008. nested in the vicinity of the village. Solotcha (8). In 2009-2010 birds were encountered in Kasimovsky (Gus-Zhelezny, Chuliksa), Klepikovsky (Gorki, Mamasevo, Dunino, Lebedino, Nefedovo, Pilevo), Sapozhkovsk (Mozhary), Spassky (Brykin Bor village, Kiritsy village, Sushki village), Ryazan (Alekanovo village, Solotcha village) districts (7, 9-11). Over the past 100 years, it was indicated as a rare species for central Russia in the 1960s. (12).

Habitats and biology

The green woodpecker nests in different types of forest: mixed coniferous-deciduous forests, swampy alder forests, floodplain oak forests, etc. In some years it stays for the winter. Monogs. Begins nesting in mid-April. It nests in hollows of trees at a height of 1.7-17.2 m. The hollow can be hollowed out on its own, but more often it expands and deepens old hollows of other species of woodpeckers. The eggs are laid on wood chips specially harvested by birds from the walls of the hollow. There are 6-9 white eggs in a clutch. The beginning of oviposition is late April to mid-May. Chicks hatch 14 days after the last egg is laid. In broods there are 5-8 chicks reared for 27-28 days. Chicks leave the hollow in the middle - second half of June. The breeding success is 74.3%. It feeds mainly on ants. In winter, they can dig long burrows in ant heaps - up to 1 m (6).

Limiting factors and threats

It is not entirely clear, perhaps, the regional position of the region and the general depression of the number of the species are of significant importance.

Taken and necessary security measures

The species is included in Appendix II of the Berne Convention. The green woodpecker has been under protection in the Ryazan region since 1977 (13). The habitats of the species are protected in the Oksky Nature Reserve, NP "Meshchersky". It is necessary to organize natural monuments "Kochemarskaya pier", "Ryabov backwater", "Lopata tract", "Ageeva gora", "Upper Sheikino", "Korchazhnoe tract", nesting of this and other rare species.

Sources of information

1. Ivanchev, 2005c, 2. Pavlov, 1879, 3. Khomyakov, 1900, 4. Ivanchev et al., 2000, 5. Cheltsov, 1999, 6. Ivanchev, 1995a, 7. Data of V.P. Ivancheva, 8. Data by E.A. Barantseva, 9. Fionina et al., In press, 10. Aleksenko, Falin, in print, 11. Bulychova, in print, 12. Ptushenko, Inozemtsev, 1968, 13. Decision of the Executive Committee ... from 19.01.1977, No. 16 ...