Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)




The Great Spotted Woodpecker is the most common woodpecker in Europe and distributes in all kinds of woodland, large parks and also in gardens. Across Europe the Great Spotted Woodpecker is mainly to be found in decideous / mixed woods. A certain amount of deadwoods is chritical to a healthy population and habitat.


As is the case with most woodpeckers, the Great Spotted Woodpecker is able to vertically walk on trees and brances. They feed on insects, also on conifer seeds (if available), and if need be they also feed on other species eggs and nestlings. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is able to learn techniques to extract food. For example in order to extract conifer seeds from cones, the bird wedges the cone into bark crevices and then starts picking away on the cone.


For more information please read the Bird Facts on the Great Spotted Woodpecker below.


great spotted woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker


Bird Facts: Great Spotted Woodpecker


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Food - Threats



Order: Passerines (Passeriformes)

Family: Picidae

Genus: Dendrocopus

Species: Great Spotted Woodpecker


Scientific Name: Dendrocopos [major] major


Names and Synonymes of the Great Spotted Woodpecker


Name in German: Buntspecht

Name in Czech: Strakapoud velký

Name in Slovak: ďateľ veľký

Name in Hungarian: Nagy fakopáncs

Name in Croat: Veliki Djetlić

Name in French: Pic épeiche

Name in Dutch: Grote Bonte Specht

Name in Spanisch: Pico picapinos

Name in Portuguese: Pica-pau-malhado-grande

Name in Italian: Picchio rosso maggiore

Name in Finnisch: Käpytikka

Name in Norwegisch: Flaggspett

Name in Dänisch: Stor Flagspætte

Name in Schwedisch: större hackspett

Name in Polnisch: Dzięcioł duży

Name in Russisch: Большой пёстрый дятел

Name in Greek: pardalotsiklitara, Παρδαλοτσικλιτάρα, Πευκοδρυοκολάπτης

Name in Turkey: Orman Ağaçkakanı, Orman Alaca Ağaçkakan, Orman alaca ağaçkakanı, orman alaca ağaçkakany, Orman Alaca Aşaçkakan



Distribution – Movements – Habitat – Behaviour


Distribution: The Great Spotted Woodpecker distributes in conifer and deciduous woods across Eurasia, the area stretches from southwest Europe and northern Africa to across Siberia to Japan and southeast Asia; from lowlands to mountainous regions to altitudes of 1500-1700 m (northern Alps) and in the central Alps up to altitudes of 2,000 to >2,200 m. In central Europe the main spots of distribution are Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic.


Movements: In central Europe the Great Spotted Woodpecker is mainly residential, but also migratory depending on availability of pinewood and spruce seeds. Migration usually starts end-August, peaking during end-September/early October. Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker are known to migrate for distances of > 100 km.


Habitat: The Great Spotted Woodpecker breeds in deciduous woods and coniferous forests as well and also distributes in parkland and gardens.

Die Kohlmeise besiedelt auch kleine Feldgehölze, Parks, Alleen, Gärten und Stadtbereiche. In der Stadt lässt sich die Kohlmeise durch die Bereitstellung von Kunsthöhlen ansiedeln.


Behaviour: The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a diurnal bird. Movement on the ground and on branches by hopping on both legs. In >90% of all cases it climbs upwards. When climbing downwards the Great Spotted Woodpecker is doing it in sort of a reverse motion, assuming the same posture as when climbing up. It shows a typical wavy flight and reach speeds of up to 40 km/h.


The Great Spotted Woodpecker sleeps in tree hollows and only rarely in nesting boxes. It forages by hacking holes (up to 10 cm) into rotten or dead wood; also by poking around in crevices and hollows. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is able to stick out its tongue by up to 40 mm.


great spotted woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker




Food: The Great Spotted Woodpecker is much more versatile with food than most woodpeckers, mainly vegetables. In the north high-fat seeds are of much more importance than in the south. Especially during winter Great Spotted Woodpeckers rely on high-fat seeds. In coniferous forests daily requirements for pinewood seeds is about 1,450-1700 seed (7-8 g) and c 1,440 spruce seeds (according to reports from Germany).


Animal food comes from wood-dwelling beetle and butterfly larvae, scale insects, adult beetles and butterflies, ants. Great Spotted Woodpecker also feed on nestlings. During summer they also feed on berries and soft fruits. In northern Europe the Great Spotted Woodpecker mainly feeds on coniferous seeds.


Longevity: The oldest known ringed bird of a Great Spotted Woodpecker reached an age of at least 13 years.


Threats: Great Spotted Woodpeckers are threatened by loss of suitable tree hollows caused by lack of old trees in forests.



great spotted woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker