[order] Piciformes | [family] Picidae | [latin] Picus viridis | [UK] Green Woodpecker | [FR] Pic vert | [DE] Grünspecht | [ES] Pito Real | [IT] Picchio verde | [NL] Groene Specht

Groene Specht determination

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The Green Woodpecker has a green mantle and wings, yellow-green rump, and whitish underparts. The crown and nape are red, with black marking around the eye, and black moustache. The tail is blackish with green barring. The male's moustache has a red centre, while the female's is all black. The juveniles are spotted with black on the underparts and head, and spotted with white on the mantle and coverts. As with other woodpeckers, the stiff tail feathers are used as a prop when it is clinging to a tree, and its toes are specially arranged with two pointing forwards and two backwards.

Resident in temperate and also marginally in milder boreal and Mediterranean zones of west Palearctic in oceanic as well as continental climates. In most regions, more of a lowland species than Grey-headed Woodpecker. Also, apparently, since widespread forest clearance, desertion of unbroken close forests has been taken somewhat further than by Grey-headed Woodpecker, especially in west of range where park-land, orchards, groves, gardens, vineyards, heathland with scattered trees, hedgerow trees, and spinneys, and even treeless dry dwarf scrub and cliff-tops are as much favoured as more traditional open or broken broad-leaved mixed forest with grassy fringes or clearings.

Picus viridis is a widespread resident across much of Europe, which constitutes >75% of its global range. Its European breeding population is large (>590,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate decline between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in some smaller populations during 1990-2000, many populations—including key ones in France and Romania—were stable or increased, and the species was probably stable overall. Nevertheless, its population has not yet recovered to the level that preceded the decline, and consequently the species is provisionally evaluated as Depleted.

When feeding, Green Woodpeckers flick out their long, worm-like rod tongues to capture food items which stick to the tip. It is the tongue which collects food for the bird, not the large, pointed triangular bill. The tongue is attached to the curved horns of the hyoid bone, situated in the neck, by tough muscular strands; when not being used, it remains coiled up in the mouth cavity, round and like a thin eel. Glands are present on the tongue which produce a highly sticky saliva, while at the end there is a collection of back-facing barbs; thus, ants get trapped and held at the tip. When an ants' nest is opened, larvae, pupae, and eggs are all eaten as well as active adults. At a distance, it is not easy to see the rapidly moving tongue as it is extended, even when powerful binoculars are used; however, much less effort is required to spot tongue movements by well-grown young as they peer from their nest-hole, anticipating the return of a parent with food.
As well as ants, Green Woodpeckers feed on bark insects; damaged or diseased bark is struck and opened with blows from the sturdy, pointed beak. Insect pupae, larvae and spiders are certainly eaten and I have watched a juvenile taking trapped flies from a spider's web. The sounds of a Green Woodpecker exploring a tree, with bark tapping to get at wood-boring insects, gives a worthwhile recording sequence. In addition, berries from various plant species are eaten by Green Woodpeckers, although access to them may be a problem.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 920,000-2,900,000 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (del Hoyo et al. 2002) so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

The five or six white eggs are laid at the bottom of the shaft, which is directed downwards from inside the entrance hole. Male and female both contribute to nest construction which takes about 2 weeks, usually by creating a hole in a rotting tree trunk. The incubation period is about 18 days. There is only one brood, with the young spending about three weeks in the nest cavity; the adults are often very vocal at this time. The young are fed by regurgitation. The young leave the nest site after a further 18 to 20 days.

Resident. In western and central Europe, dispersal very local in character; individual movements above 20 km unusual. Becomes more widespread within breeding range in autumn-winter, when some birds (especially immatures) leave well-timbered sites to range into (e.g.) farmland, orchards, and along watercourses; adults show high degree of fidelity to home-range.