British Bird of the Month: Green Woodpecker

Member of Picidae (woodpecker) family


A large, chunky woodpecker. On the ground they are a little bigger than mistle thrush, but of similar stature. They spend all year in the UK (but are absent in Ireland, and recently scarcer in northern and western outposts).

The very characteristic flight is undulating, with 3-4 wingbeats followed by a short glide when the wings are held by the body. Green woodpecker prefer open deciduous and mixed woods and farmland with pasture, and more and more they are seen in parks and large gardens. The oldest recorded bird (BTO) is 15 years.

Unlike greater spotted woodpecker, who readily visit bird tables, the green woodpecker spends much of its time feeding on the ground and does not often ‘drum’ on trees like other woodpecker species. It is a shy bird but usually draws attention with its loud laughing (yaffle) calls.

What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them

The principal diet of the green woodpecker is ants, which is why they are often seen on lawns probing the surface. Leaving a patch of rough soft grass will encourage them. For a woodpecker they have soft bills without barbed tongues

Where They Live & How You Can Help Them

A nest hole is excavated in a tree; four to six eggs are laid which hatch after 19–20 days. Leaving any large slightly rotting tree trunks in a quiet part of a large garden may encourage them to nest.

And Finally……..

Green woodpecker are much mentioned in folklore and even ‘Professor Yaffle’, the wooden bookend character in the children’s animation  Bagpusswas based upon the green woodpecker. ‘Yaffle’ was among many English folk name, others include rain-bird, and weather cock relating to its supposed ability to bring on rain.

Having lived in Herefordshire, a great apple growing county, the green woodpecker has aparticular connections as it has been used as the name and logo of a local cider. Cheers!

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