BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius)

 

Pic noir

 
 

Bl Wood NHM-UK_L_117022_187_W_1.jpgIf woodpeckers are one of my favorite families of birds, then within them the Black Woodpecker stands out for me. I remember being fascinated as a child by one of the early TV nature documentaries by a German film-maker called Heinz Sielmann ("My Year with the Woodpeckers") who filmed their nest through a hole at the back of the tree. A remarkable feat in the 1950's which made him justly famous. It would take me another 40 years before I actually saw one !

It is the largest of the woodpeckers in our area, and has a far-carrying ringing, rather mournful cry. When I have seen it call like this it throws its head back as though really trying to get maximum reach - and indeed it can be heard from a long distance. The following track was recorded in March when the melting snow was dripping from the trees, I call it the "kleeer" call:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
 
 
 

Another call I have heard from this species seems to be made only when it is flying is a very loud metallic "yammering" noise. The next recording contains two extracts from a longer sequence, in the first 30 secs the bird is sitting and calling, it then moves to a different tree making its flight call and resumes its regular calling. Towards the end of the second part it takes off and flies down the valley where you can hear the call disappearing in the distance.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Two interesting things can be seen from the sonogram of the early part of this piece - the flight call is actually a

 

series of triple notes which gives it that very nice rattling effect, also if you look carefully at the single calls the note starts with a downward slur, then flattens, before sliding down again at the end, this probably accounts for the "mournful" nature of the sound:

 

 

 

A third call from this species I hear less frequently in the Jura is a loud advertising call, reminiscent of a Green Woodpecker but with more of a "yelping" quality:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

As you can hear at the end of that piece this call is made in flight as well as perched. Here is a sonogram of one phrase from that:

 

However there is one final noise I find characteristic of the family. Woodpeckers tend to be rather "stiff" birds, with strong legs and rigid tail and muscular body - I guess this supports their lifestyle where their whole body is the avian equivalent of a pneumatic drill. I am often conscious of the noise made by the wings of woodpeckers when they fly. Here is one last file of a bird flying around not far from me, calling relatively gently, but moving from tree to tree and pecking at the rotting wood, listen carefully and the wing noises are evident:

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

 

 

Go to top