Saturday, September 6, 2014

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

(24 cm.) Large: black and white, white cheek, red head spot.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a member of the family, “Picidae,” the woodpeckers. Like all woodpeckers, it is usually found climbing around the trunks of large trees in a concentrated search for insects and their larvae. This species is the most widespread woodpecker in China, and it is found throughout the East.

Both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers are “pied” birds that are primarily colored black and white. Both sexes sport a pinkish-red vent, the area found on the birds’ under parts near the base of their tails. The male displays a red spot on the back of its head that is missing in the female.

All woodpeckers have physical adaptations that allow them to lead their rather unconventional way of life. To allow them to grip tree bark, nature has provided woodpeckers with two pairs of toes which point in opposite directions and ensure firm gripping of tree bark. Their unusually stiff tail feathers provide added support as the birds grip tree bark. Woodpeckers also possess heavily-reinforced skulls which can absorb the impact of the birds’ drilling into tree trunks with their sharp bills. The tongue of a woodpecker in extremely long and can extend several centimeters beyond its bill, allowing the woodpecker to probe the holes it drills in search of food.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a non-migratory resident throughout most of its Chinese range. It will sometimes venture south in winter from the coldest parts of its range. It is still a common winter bird in Beijing during winter, however.

This species is omnivorous; and although it is fond of insects, it will also consume the eggs and chicks of other bird species, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It has even been known to eat small rodents.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker nests in a tree cavity usually in a soft-wooded tree that is in some state of decay. The female lays 5-7 eggs and after hatching, the chicks will gather at the hole entrance to clamber for food while the parent birds are absent on their food-finding missions.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Photo by Maartin Visser)

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