Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)



Great Spotted Woodpecker © Simon Booth

Great Spotted Woodpecker © Simon Booth

There is little difference between the breeding season and winter distribution of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. 543 tetrads were occupied in both seasons, with 45 used in then breeding season but not in winter and 35 with birds in winter only. Perhaps the only significant change is that they were found in winter in a handful of tetrads near the north Wirral coast that had no breeding birds.

Some birds do spread out into new areas in winter. A century ago, when the species was much scarcer and seldom known to breed in Wirral, Coward (1910) wrote that they occurred sparingly during autumn and winter in all parts of the county. Coward also noted that, during the winter months, they will sometimes roost night after night in an old nesting hole. No roosting birds were reported during this Atlas survey, however.

Especially at this season they are most likely to forage on dead wood, but they also take tree seeds (especially beech and other nuts) and a variety of food provided by man including peanuts and fat; they sometimes feed on the ground. Steve and Gill Barber saw two birds foraging on a hillside pasture near Wildboarclough (SJ96Z) in 2004/ 05. The submitted habitat codes show most records in woodland, but a reduced proportion (59%) compared to the breeding season, with more birds visiting farmland (19%) and human sites (18%).

Most records were of single birds, but they were often recorded as two birds together, possibly a pair. Territorial display starts during winter, with drumming noted from as early as 7 December, and frequent in January and February. There were 45 winter records of three or more birds together, with three counts of six birds including one by Bill Bellamy on 3 December 2006 when he was amazed to see six Great Spotted Woodpeckers perched in a single large oak near Leighton Grange (SJ65T).

Sponsored by Chester and District Ornithological Society