Gosforth Nature Reserve Journal: Great Spotted Woodpeckers

Enjoy a closer look at one of Gosforth Nature Reserve’s most prominent woodland birds in a new blog by local naturalist and volunteer, Christopher Wren.

June is a time for fledglings as many of the year’s young birds leave their nests and take to the wing for the first time.  Among them some of the noisiest and most eye-catching are young Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

The adult birds excavate a new nest hole in spring every year, usually in the trunk of a large tree in mature deciduous woodland.  The nest is unlined, apart from wood chips.

The eggs are laid at the beginning of May and hatch a couple of weeks later.  The chicks are fed by both parents, mainly on a diet of insect larvae and other invertebrates.  They become increasingly noisy as they get older, clamouring for food and often looking out of the nest hole as they call for more.  The youngsters are easily recognised by the red feathers on their crown.

Fledging takes just over three weeks so the first chicks are usually on the wing in the second week of June.  They are fed by their parents for a few days and shown how and where to find food and are then left to fend for themselves.

Here is a short video of a fledgling being fed by its father.

Although woodpeckers feed mainly on invertebrates they find in dead wood, the parent birds will often bring the youngsters to feeders in the garden and this video shows the view from a trail camera set up to capture the action.

Once free of parental responsibility the adult birds moult their feathers progressively over the next few months to get into prime condition before the winter.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are thriving.  Population data from the British Trust for Ornithology show a 400% increase over the last 50 years.  If you see one in your garden be sure to report it to the Gosforth’s Wide Web.

Christopher Wren
Local Naturalist and Volunteer

Christopher Wren is a volunteer in Gosforth Nature Reserve and a local naturalist, interested in most areas of natural history, especially mammals and using trail cameras to study their behaviour.

Visit Chris’ blog for more updates on North East’s wildlife – TrogTrogBlog