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Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

A common woodpecker, this species can be heard drumming on trees with its bill.

Common name: Great spotted woodpecker

Scientific name: Dendrocopos major

Family: Picidae (wrynecks and woodpeckers)


Head: both the adult male and female have a black crown, but the male has a red patch at the bottom of his crown. The juveniles crown is red is colour. Both sexes have a white cheek, black facial markings and black bill.  

Wings: black with white spotted markings and a white area on its shoulder. 

Body: black upper body with white underparts and a red patch beneath its tail. 

Where to spot

Throughout England and Wales, but absent from Ireland and some areas of Scotland. Can be seen in woodlands, gardens and parks.


Insects, such as beetle larvae, form a large part of its diet but in winter they feed on nuts and seeds. Using its powerful bill to peck away at tree bark it retrieves its insect prey with its long tongue. This species can also be seen visiting bird feeders.


The great spotted woodpecker breeds in April to May and will lay a clutch of four to six eggs. A nesting cavity is created in the trunk of a large tree, this is done by both the male and female bird. The chicks will fledge at around 20 days old.


  • Sometimes confused with the lesser spotted woodpecker the great spotted woodpecker is, as its name suggests, larger in size. It is around the same size as a blackbird compared to the sparrow sized lesser spotted.
  • This species of woodpecker is not known for going on the ground but will be more commonly seen on the trunks of trees.
  • Its song is in fact a drumming sound which it creates by hitting tree branches with its bill.