GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis)

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With red cap, green wings, pale breast and its dark mask this beautiful bird is a distinctive figure of fields and woodlands.

The Green Woodpeckers yammering call carries a long way through the woods, but it tends to call only very irregularly and unpredictably and so is difficult to record. Here is one recorded in the Bois des Chênes giving four typical territorial calls at about 20s intervals, each call sequence tends to descend slightly in pitch but accelerates in speed towards the end:

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The old English name for a Green Woopecker is "yaffle" and it is easy to see why having heard this call. Is this a call or a song ?? In the Green Woodpecker it really serves the function of the song of other species - both announcing territory and advertising for a mate, and seems to be made by both sexes. I have never knowingly heard (or seen !) a Green Woodpecker drumming although the literature says they can do so but rarely, the drum seems to be much weaker than in other species. (BUT SEE UPDATE BELOW)

They also make a similar but sharper, slightly higher and faster noise which I believe is mostly an alarm or excitement call. It is often heard when a bird is disturbed and frequently made in flight (which can follow being disturbed of course !), it has a much more "yelping" quality to it than the territorial call. Here are three cuts of the same individual bird moving through a wood bordering an open field and giving this occasional call:

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The two sounds are quite similar but heard side by side the differences are clear:

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although there is rather little to distinguish them on a sonogram:

 

Fond of attacking ant nests, the Green Woodpecker is unusual in the group in frequently feeding on the ground.

Another ant feeder of similar appearance is the Grey-headed Woodpecker click on that species to find out how to tell them apart

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UPDATE: DRUMMING !

March 2011 - I have read that Green Woodpeckers will drum but only on rare occasions. Gorman (2004) says that when they do it is "not very convincing and rather weak". As I was recording this bird I became aware that between calls it was making a very weak vibrating drumming noise, definitely not feeding sounds which are not rhythmic at all (listen to feeding sounds here). A plane was passing but I could not edit it out as it would also have blocked the gentle drumming noise, but you can hear drums from the Green at 12, 35, 38, 59, 1.04, 1.14 and 1.50 - there is also a Great Spotted some distance away making much stronger and clear drummings - serves as a good comparison:

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Gorman (2004) says that they do this next to the nest hole in spring and it may serve as bonding between mates rather than territorial display - but I forgot to look for a hole!  - maybe next time. (Did you hear the Bullfinch make that cry just before the fourth call at 1.22 ?)

 


 

 

 
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