Black Woodpecker Fact File
The black woodpecker has jet black feathers across their entire body except for the crimson red crown. Males can be distinguished from females as their crown is smaller than the males and sits further back on their head.
Their tail is stiff and helps with balance when they are sitting on trees. They have a dagger like beak which is used to peck trees giving them their name. This is colored ivory white with a bluish-black tip.
Unlike most perching birds which have three forward facing toes and one facing back the woodpecker has two facing in each direction to help them grip trees while they peck them. Their feet are colored dark grey.
These birds are roughly the size of a crow and will measure 45cm (18in) long on average. Their weight is averages 350g (13oz). Their wingspan is 67-73cm (26.4-28.7in) across.
Black woodpeckers are carnivores. Their diet is made up of insect larvae and ants with the carpenter ant being a key target.
Feeding takes place low on a tree trunk or at the base of a tree on the ground.
Their beak is used to carve holes in trees allowing them to get to the ants and beetle larvae which live within the tree. They may create holes in a tree as deep as 50cm (20in) long.
Black woodpeckers are found across Europe and Asia. Here they are found in the following countries: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Democratic People's Republic of, Korea, Republic of, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.
They make their home in forests which are not overly dense. In parts of their range they make use of the forest edge. They are dependent on large trees such as pine, oak and beech trees.
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Mating takes place from mid-January with egg laying occurring from mid-March to mid-May.
A nest is created in a cavity which is pecked in to the trunk of a dead tree. This will be created each year by a breeding pair and they then abandon this which provides a valuable habitat for other bird species. The base of the nest may be covered with woodchips and it may take as much as 2 weeks to incubate.
Up to six eggs will be laid in this nest and both parents work together on incubating the eggs for 12-14 days.
At hatching the chicks are unfeathered and helpless. They are reliant o the parents bringing them food. They will spend a month in the nest being care for by the parents.. After fledging they remain with their parents for another month.
Pairs may remain together outside the breeding season. They separate by a short distance to feed though remain in vocal contact during this time.
When perched or landing their primary call sounds like “ke-yaa” and in flight they make a "krry-krry-krry" call.
Black woodpeckers maintain a home territory which is highly variable in size based on the availability of food. Their habitat may be shared with other species of woodpecker.
They move along the ground using a clumsy hopping motion.
Predators and Threats
Black woodpeckers are affected by humans primarily due to the logging and habitat destruction. They are reliant on dead trees for habitat and if these are removed they struggle to survive.
Their wide range means a large number of these animals remain.
The black woodpecker is part Finnish folklore. It is believed that if the woodpecker pecks your house someone within will soon pass away.
Another tale was that if you picked your teeth with a toothpick made from the tongue of a woodpecker it would make a toothache go away.
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By Frank Vassen from Brussels, Belgium - Schwarzspecht, Staatswald Rocherath, Ostbelgien, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20224700
Alastair Rae from London, United Kingdom / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
By Andreas Eichler, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56807481
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley, p.169.
Ebird.org. 2020. Black Woodpecker - Ebird. [online] Available at: <https://ebird.org/species/blawoo1> [Accessed 12 September 2020].
Bouglouan, N., 2020. Black Woodpecker. [online] Oiseaux-birds.com. Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-black-woodpecker.html> [Accessed 12 September 2020].
UPM Forest Life. 2020. Black Woodpecker. [online] Available at: <https://www.upmforestlife.com/species/black-woodpecker> [Accessed 12 September 2020].
BirdLife International. 2016. Dryocopus martius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22681382A87301348. Downloaded on 12 September 2020.
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