The Woodpecker Family - Piciformes



Woodpeckers come across as small to medium-sized birds. They are tree dwelling which is manifested by their expert climbing up and down on trees. Because of their very special way of life they form their own Piciformes order. Seven families are summarised under the Piciformes order.


The main characteristics of woodpeckers are:

  • Mainly four toes, with the second and third toe facing forward and first and fourth toe facing backwards
  • This special setting of toes enables woodpeckers to expertly grasp branches and trunks of trees.
  • Woodpecker can vertically walk up and down on trees, even head down.
  • Strong claws and feet.
  • Short, strong legs.
  • Mainly forage on trees
  • Fast flight abilities with speed up to 40-50 km/h.
  • Typical long, sharp and pointed bill.
  • They work their bill like a chisel
  • Mainly stiff tail to support standing on vertical surfaces.
  • Breed in tree hollows



European woodpeckers forage on insects and invertebrates, which they look for in and under bark and also in wood and deadwood. It is of the utmost importance for woopeckers to have enough deadwood in woods and parks because there they find a lot of food.


Most of them are drumming. This is either part of communication but is also caused simply by picking in bark and trees. There are also woodpecker such as the Green Woodpecker and the Black Woopecker whom we hardly ever hear drumming; instead these birds utter loud calls.


The species of the piciformes order in the Western Palearctic are:

  • (Eurasian) Wryneck (Jynx [torquilla] torquilla L.)
  • Grey-faced Woodpecker - Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)
  • Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
  • Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
  • Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus)
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
  • Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos [major] syriacus)
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medicus)
  • White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos)
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dryobates minor)