Picus viridis

© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jari Hiltunen, M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Picus canus

  • Name also: Grey-faced Woodpecker
  • Family: Woodpeckers – Picidae
  • Appearance: Easily mistaken for the similar Green Woodpecker. Back and wings greenish; underparts, neck and most of head greyish in colour; rump yellowish green. Black eye stripe and moustache-like stripe on cheek. Mature males have some red colouring on their forehead.
  • Size: Length 27–32 cm, weight 110–140 g.
  • Nest: In a hole usually excavated in a deciduous tree (typically aspen, alder or birch).
  • Breeding: 5–10 eggs laid April–May, incubated by both parents for 17–18 days. Young remain in nest for 23–27 days.
  • Distribution: Scarce breeder in older broad-leaved and mixed woodland in Southern Finland. Further north only seen occasionally or in certain localities. Finnish breeding population estimated at 1,500–4,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Sedentary, though may range over longer distances occasionally between September and April. Seldom flies over marine waters.
  • Diet: Ants and their eggs, insects found in decaying wood, berries. May visit bird tables during the winter.
  • Calls: Mating call a piercing series of whistles “kee-kee-kee ku ku” slowing and dropping in pitch at end. Only occasionally drums.

Grey-headed Woodpeckers are larger than Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and mainly greenish in colouring, with a grey head and underparts, and a yellowish rump. They have a black eye stripe and a black moustache-like stripe on their cheeks. Males also have a red patch on their forehead. Females and juveniles have no red markings on their heads. They have greyish yellow legs, dark grey beaks, and red irises.

Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis

The Grey-headed Woodpeckers seen in Finland are often mistakenly identified as Green Woodpeckers, which are however extremely rare here. Green Woodpeckers nest in Sweden and the Baltic Countries in declining numbers. The wide gulfs of the Baltic Sea are a barrier to its spread, since Green Woodpeckers are known to avoid flying across any kinds of wide open spaces. Green Woodpeckers are slightly larger than their grey-headed cousins, and have more extensive black facial markings and red caps extending to the back of their necks. They generally lack the characteristic grey colouring visible on the heads of Grey-headed Woodpeckers.

Other species from the same family

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