Home Newsletter Locations Diary




Green Woodpecker

Latin Name: Picus Viridis

The Green Woodpecker is a member of the woodpecker family of which there are 4 subspecies and most occur in most parts of Europe and western Asia. It is the largest of the 3 woodpeckers found in the UK. It has a heavy looking body, short tail and a strong long bill.

It spends much of it's time feeding on ants on the ground and does not often 'drum' on trees, however they do have a loud call.

A Female Green Woodpecker

It is a shy bird and although I grew up in the countryside I in fact had never seen a Green Woodpecker until a few years back when we lived in a farmhouse in the country and they were regular visitors to our garden, both adults and their young. All I can say is there must have been a good supply of ants in that garden.

We have loads of photographs which were mainly taken from inside our house, as soon as they heard a noise they would fly off. See our gallery for some of images we have - Green Woodpecker Gallery.


From the other woodpeckers it is identifiable from it's green back, pale yellow belly, a red crown on it's head and its black moustache stripe, which in males has a red stripe in it, whereas in females it is all black. Both sexes are green and from a distance will look similar, on closer inspection it is the red strip in the black area on the head that signifies it is a male. Juveniles are spotty and streaked all over with a dark moustache initially until the red feathers start to show. Their beak is used for pecking in soft wood and for getting into the soft ground for it's food. However they have very long tongues (10cm) and has to be curled around it's skull, it is coated with sticky secretions from the enlarged salivary glands and it is this it uses to get to the ants.


Picture is of a Juvenile

Animal Facts

In Britain: All year round

Life Span: No typical lifespan however maximum recorded age is 15 years.

Statistics: 30-36cm long, 45-51cm wingspan

Habitat: Old deciduous trees for nesting with nearby feeding grounds with plenty of ants. Usually found in semi-open landscapes with small woodlands, hedges, old trees on edges of forests. Suitable habitats for foraging included grassland, heaths, plantations, orchards and lawns.

Food: ants and their larvae, and insects.

Breeding: They have one brood a year and nest in holes they excavate in a tree and lay 4-6 eggs, incubation 19-20 days, by both parents, young fledge after 21-24 days. There are estimated to be 24,200 pairs in the UK.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Distribution: More than 75% of the range of the Green Woodpecker is in Europe, over half the population are thought to be France and there are substantial numbers in the UK, but it is absent from Ireland. There is believed to be an estimated global population of around 920,000-2.9million birds. The species are highly sedentary and individuals rarely move more than 500m between breeding seasons. They can be found in the UK in open deciduous woodland, parks, orchards and farmland in England, Wales and Scotland, but there are none in Northern Ireland.

Behaviour: They build nests in oaks, beeches, willows and fruit trees. The hole may be excavated in solid or rotten wood and is built mostly by the male over 15-30 days. The eventual cavity measures 150mm wide and up to 400mm deep. Some nest holes are used for breeding for more than 10 years but not necessarily the same pair. They climb up tree trunks and branches and being shy they will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching.

Conservation Status: Least concern.


See Also

Photographing Woodpeckers

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker


RSPB - Green Woodpecker - a sound recording can be played



By: Tracey Park Section: Birds Key:
Page Ref: woodpecker_green Topic: Wildlife & Animals Last Updated: 05/2009

This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking:  Green Woodpecker on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/

Photographers Resource, all the information for the photographer