The spotted woodpecker is the most common member of the woodpecker family. It inhabits most of the deciduous, mixed forests in various countries with warm, temperate climatic conditions. These are quite noisy, noisy birds. They are impossible to miss because of their bright plumage, characteristic red cap.
Origin of the species and description
The spotted woodpecker is one of the most extraordinary representatives of the woodpecker family. This bird with a unique appearance densely inhabits deciduous, mixed forests. The lifestyle of most woodpeckers is sedentary. However, individuals living on the northern periphery can migrate to nearby regions. It is not only severe frosts that make nomadic birds, but also unfavorable feeding conditions.
Interesting fact: The woodpecker family today has about two hundred and twenty different species. The size of the birds ranges from fifteen to fifty-three centimeters. Spotted woodpeckers are one of the most numerous species.
You can recognize the spotted woodpecker by the so-called red cap located on the parietal part of the head. This species includes from fourteen to twenty-six races. The subspecies taxonomy of the bird has not yet been thoroughly studied, so it is impossible to determine the exact number of subspecies. Among the most famous subspecies of spotted woodpeckers are: great sharp-winged, yellow-breasted, brown-fronted, Malaysian, Arabian, middle and great spotted woodpeckers.
Interesting fact: Woodpeckers are noisy animals. They are able to hit a tree at a phenomenal speed – 20-25 times per second. This is twice the maximum speed of machine guns.
Party woodpeckers, like other numerous members of the woodpecker family, play an important role in the ecology of the forest. They rid forests of pests, help small birds acquire nests. Woodpeckers hollow out the thick bark of a tree, leaving hollows for tits, flycatchers.
Appearance and features
Woodpeckers of this species are of medium or small size. In size, they can resemble the common thrush. Body length usually does not exceed twenty-seven centimeters. The wingspan is, on average, forty-five centimeters. The weight of the animal ranges from sixty to one hundred grams.
The most important external feature of the woodpecker is its bright color. The color of the feathers is dominated by black, white tones. The motley appearance of the animal is given by a bright red cap on the head and a red (in some subspecies – pink) undertail. The back and the rest of the head have a slight blue sheen. The lower part of the body is usually white, sometimes with a brown tint. In general, the color depends on the habitat.
Video: Spotted Woodpecker
The spotted woodpecker, like most other individuals of the family, has zygodactyl paws. He has three fingers looking forward, one back. This structure of the paws allows the animal to easily, securely grab the trunks of trees, confidently stay there in an upright position. Stiff tail feathers also play an important role in this process. They also help to stay on the trunk when moving up.
Interesting fact: A distinctive feature of such birds is a long, sometimes prickly, tongue. In adults, it can reach ten centimeters in length. With such a language, it is much easier to get bugs, insects from the bark of trees.
Birds of this species have strong, large wings. However, they do not use them very often. Wings are only used to fly from one tree to another. The rest of the time woodpeckers prefer to climb the trunk in search of food. A characteristic feature of birds is the voice. In motley woodpeckers, the song is rather short, vaguely reminiscent of a continuous drum roll. When threatened, it can make a loud scream.
Where does the spotted woodpecker live?
The spotted woodpecker is found on various continents. It lives in Africa, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Europe. On the European territory, he lives almost everywhere. The exceptions are some highland areas, Ireland, the northern part of Scandinavia. Also, this bird can be found in Asia Minor, Sicily, Sardinia, in the Caucasus, Transcaucasia.
A large number of woodpeckers live in Scandinavia, Finland. There they can be found in areas with dense woody vegetation. This species is widely represented in Ukraine. Huge populations are found in the southern part of the state up to the city of Dnipro. Do not meet such birds only in the steppe zones of Ukraine. Large spotted woodpeckers live in almost all regions of Russia, they are found in the mountainous Crimea, in Mongolia, in western China.
Spotted woodpeckers do not have very strict habitat requirements. They can adapt to any biotype. The only important thing for them is the presence of trees. They settle in the northern taiga, on small wooded islands, in gardens and parks. These birds are not afraid of being close to people, so they build their nests even in the parks of densely populated cities.
Despite some plasticity with respect to biotypes, bird populations may not be evenly distributed. They often have a preference for different types of forest. Individuals living in Africa often choose cedar, poplar, olive forests for life. In Russia, the animal usually settles in broad-leaved forests. In Poland – in oak-hornbeam, alder-ash groves.
What does the spotted woodpecker eat?
The diet of spotted woodpeckers depends on two factors:
- Season of the year;
In the warm season – from the beginning of spring to the end of summer, birds get food for themselves, preferably on the trunks of various trees, on the ground. They carefully inspect every tree. Start inspection from the bottom of the trunk. They climb the tree in a spiral, not missing a single centimeter of bark. During the inspection, the bird actively uses its long tongue, launching it into the cracks. If the tongue detects food, then a powerful beak is included in the work. It breaks the bark, from which the animal can easily get prey.
In spring and summer, the diet includes:
- Various beetles: borers, bark beetles, barbels, ground beetles, leaf beetles;
- Imago butterflies;
They can also eat gooseberries, currants, plums, raspberries, cherries. In this case, the animals are previously removed from the berries of the bone. Berries are a favorite food for birds living in European territory. There, these animals often make massive raids on gardens. Sometimes woodpeckers feast on the sap of trees.
Interesting fact: The main way to get food is chiselling. The process is quite intense, traumatic, but not for the woodpecker himself. His brain, as it were, is suspended inside the skull on strings, surrounded by liquid. All this softens the blows considerably.
In winter, it becomes more difficult for animals to get their own food in the wild. For this reason, most individuals move closer to humans. There they can find food for themselves in special feeders and even in garbage dumps. In the cold season, woodpeckers do not disdain carrion, often attack the nests of small songbirds, eat their eggs or newly hatched chicks. Also in winter, various foods of plant origin are added to the bird's diet. They eat seeds of oak, beech, hornbeam, nuts, acorns, almonds.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Spotted woodpeckers spend their entire lives in forests. They settle in forests of various compositions, conditions, and ages. Hollows are built in trees with soft wood. Usually it is aspen, alder, birch. The male is engaged in the construction of the hollow. Rarely, birds can settle in hollows abandoned by other species of woodpeckers. The diet is varied, in different seasons it is replenished with new positions.
The spotted woodpecker is an extraordinary, noisy bird. She can spend a lot of time near human habitation. She is not afraid even of large cities. Most adults lead a solitary lifestyle. They rarely come together in groups. The animal is engaged in the extraction of food during the day, “hunting” usually in a relatively small area. Each bird has its own feeding area. If an intruder flies on it, a fight can occur.
Interesting fact: Before rushing into battle, the spotted woodpecker always warns his opponent. He becomes in a certain position, opens his beak, and the feathers on his head are ruffled. Sometimes this allows you to scare off a potential enemy.
Spotted woodpeckers are peaceful birds. They rarely fly into neighboring areas, only during the period of active reproduction. However, if the flown bird does not leave the owner's site, then a fierce battle may begin. In a fight, birds inflict quite serious injuries on each other. Animals use their wings and beaks to protect and strike. Woodpeckers are usually not afraid of people. They just climb higher up the tree and keep looking for food.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Females and males of woodpeckers have practically no differences. The only factor by which they can be externally distinguished is the variation in the color of the feathers. In male birds, the back of the head is red, in females it is yellow or black. Spotted woodpeckers are monogamous. Only in Japan have a few cases of polyandry been reported.
The breeding season begins at the end of the first year of life of woodpeckers. Animals form pairs, after the end of the breeding season, most of them break up. Only a small number of couples continue to live together until next spring. The mating season for birds begins at the end of winter. Mating activity can continue until mid-May. By May, the birds are already forming pairs, building “family” nests.
In general, the breeding process can be divided into several stages:
- Acquaintance. Females and males get to know each other by combining their feeding areas. When meeting males, they show themselves more actively – they shout, drum on branches, and attract attention in every possible way. Often in mating games, birds begin to flutter through the air like butterflies. This game is called mating flight;
- Pairing. It is mating flights that most often end in mating. The process is carried out on a horizontal branch, takes about six seconds. Mating is usually accompanied by loud calls;
- Laying, incubation of eggs and caring for chicks. A female woodpecker lays about seven eggs at a time. The eggs are white and have a shiny skin. Both parents incubate the eggs, but the male spends more time in the nest. The hatching process is quite short – thirteen days. Chicks hatch helpless, blind, with a good appetite. Until maturation, both parents are involved in providing food for them. Twenty days after birth, the chicks can learn to fly, and ten days later they can forage on their own.
Natural enemies of spotted woodpeckers
The spotted woodpecker is not an easy prey for predators. He spends most of his time in the trees, which is too high for foxes, wolves, bears and other large predators. Only occasionally can they be found on the ground. It is then that predators have every chance to catch and eat the bird. For this reason, today there is practically no information about the attacks of predators on spotted woodpeckers. Only ermine and marten can be called real land enemies. These animals are more dexterous and cunning.
In temperate latitudes, woodpeckers can be attacked by birds of prey. Usually these are sparrowhawks or goshawks. Outside the forest, the main enemies of woodpeckers are peregrine falcons. They deftly hunt them, attack en masse. History knows cases of complete destruction of the population of spotted woodpeckers by peregrine falcons.
The most vulnerable spotted woodpeckers are in the first days of life. While parents fly in search of food, their nests are stolen by squirrels, dormice. Occasionally, even ordinary starlings, which are much smaller in size, are driven out of the hollows of woodpeckers. Also, the natural enemies of these animals are ticks, fleas, midges, wood lice, and some blood-sucking insects. They do not lead to the instant death of the bird, but significantly undermine its health.
Unintentionally, a person also sometimes becomes an enemy of woodpeckers. It is people who are engaged in uncontrolled deforestation, destroy the food of birds, pollute the air and soil. All this undoubtedly has a negative impact on animal populations.
Population and species status
Despite the negative human impact, active attacks from birds of prey and parasites, the general population of spotted woodpeckers suffers slightly. The number of birds of this species is very large, woodpeckers are widespread throughout almost the entire globe. They live wherever there are trees, insects, beetles.
These representatives of the woodpecker family are predominantly sedentary, but today there is no accurate information about their number. However, the population of these animals does not cause concern among scientists, they have been given the conservation status of “Causing Least Concern”.
The number and size of populations of spotted woodpeckers in certain areas can fluctuate all the time. Sometimes birds of mass die due to the attack of enemies, but then completely restore their population for several years in a row. Also in the northern regions, woodpeckers lead a nomadic lifestyle. For this reason, the size of their population in the northern territories can change several times a year.
The life expectancy of spotted woodpeckers is average. In the wild, it is about nine years old. However, scientists managed to fix the case when an adult lived for twelve years and eight months. At the moment, this is the maximum term so far.
The spotted woodpecker differs from other representatives of the woodpecker family in its size and unusual color. At a young age, their heads are decorated with bright red caps, in adults – red spots of small size. Spotted woodpeckers are real orderlies of the forest. They quickly and effectively free nozzles from various types of pests.