Bird of the Week: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

The diminutive relative of the greater spotted woodpecker, this widespread little bird is also the least numerous of its sharp-beaked family.

By Celine Longden-Naufal
Published 15 Jul 2019, 16:34 BST
The lesser spotted woodpecker – contrary to the great spotted woodpecker – is a delicate bird barely ...
The lesser spotted woodpecker – contrary to the great spotted woodpecker – is a delicate bird barely bigger than a sparrow.
Photograph by Jevgenijs Slihto

Barely bigger than a house sparrow, the elegant lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) is the smallest and, as its name may suggest, the least common addition to the woodpecker family. The black and white barred pattern splashed across its wings and back is an iconic identifying feature, as well as the male’s striking crimson crown which distinguishes him from the female. 

The larger relatives of these delicate birds, that go by the highly inventive name of the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), sport the same crimson patch but on their lower belly. 

The lesser spotted woodpecker is commonly found in England and Wales all year round. Although they are spread across Europe, they have been found to reside as far as Japan, Algeria and Tunisia. These elusive creatures are often found nesting in tree tops of deciduous woodland, usually with a taste for larvae and wood-boring insects that can easily be pecked at from the surface of small branches. 

The male lesser spotted woodpecker sports a red 'skullcap'.
Photograph by Jerzy Strzelecki

However, this woodpecker has been subject to dramatic decline in the UK and are ordered as Red Status on the IUCN list of endangered and threatened species. This is due to increased competition from other species, such as the great spotted woodpecker, as well as cumulative deforestation. 

Woodlands in the south-east of England have the highest numbers of lesser spotted woodpeckers. Visit RSPB reserves Tudeley Woods, Nagshead, Blean and Highnam Woods and keep your eyes peeled on the trees. If you find a lesser spotted woodpecker nest, you can report it to the Woodpecker Network.

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