Picus viridis, the European Green Woodpecker is a bird that I longed to see during my early days as a feeder watcher. They never visited my little sack of nuts however and I had to venture beyond my bedroom window to find one. Green Woodpeckers prefer to eat ants and will more usually be found feeding on the ground in fields and rough pasture than at a feeding table.

They range across most of Europe and into the southern parts of Scandinavia, but, like all other woodpeckers have shunned Ireland (Ireland does however have Guinness and the Irish, so there is some justice in the world). The most striking feature of a grounded bird is the red crown with a black face and pale eye. Close encounters may allow you to distinguish the male (above) by noting the red centre to his moustache. The corresponding feature on the female (below) is entirely black.

This pair were seen inspecting a nest hole in Mote Park (Maidstone, Kent, UK). The hole had been used last year by a pair of Green Woodpeckers, but I could not say if it was the same pair. It would be interesting to know if woodpeckers (of any species) return to previously used nesting holes in susequent years.

A common encounter with P. viridis is the sight of the yellow rump as a bird flushes across a meadow. The strong undulating flight and its distinctive call make it easy to identify even with the most fleeting of glimpses. The ‘yaffle’ is a descending laugh of “kyu,kyu, kyu,……..kyu, kyu.” They can be seen in trees searching for insects, but they seldom drum.

Cold winters with hard ground and protracted snow cover can prevent them from reaching their main diet constituent of ants and the population can suffer dramatic crashes. 2010/2011 has been tough on many birds, but the Green Woodpecker seems to have come through well in this area with lots of birds seen and plenty more calling. For Carrie, I include a couple of colloquial names; Laughing Betsy and Yaffingale.

These birds featured in a post about Mote Park at Redgannet

If you liked this post and want to see more great images of birds make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.

Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.