The peck of the bunch

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - COUNTRYFILE MARKET PRICES -

I HAD a query the other day from a mem­ber of the pub­lic ask­ing how long a wood­pecker was go­ing to carry on peck­ing on a wooden tiled church steeple in Folkestone. This was due to im­mi­nent re­pairs, but they were go­ing to wait un­til af­ter the wood­pecker had fin­ished drum­ming. The wood­pecker, I pre­sume, is the great spot­ted wood­pecker which is one of three species of wood­pecker com­monly found in Bri­tain. With this species they do not sing to mark out their breed­ing ter­ri­tory, but they drum on a piece of dead wood high in a tree, or on a wooden tiled church steeple in this case or last year op­po­site my house on a tele­graph pole. The male and the fe­male both drum and the noise is cre­ated by the bird ham­mer­ing very quickly and very hard on the wood to pro­duce a res­o­nance. It only lasts a sec­ond or two, with a short in­ter­val be­fore the next drum. The great spot­ted wood­pecker has a black and white plumage with a red patch un­der­neath the tail. The males have a red patch at the back of the head, while the fe­males lack this. The young­sters which leave the nest have a com­plete red crown un­til the au­tumn when they moult into the adult’s plumage. As for how long the drum­ming will con­tinue, if the pair are suc­cess­ful in rear­ing young­sters, I would haz­ard a guess the drum­ming will tail off very quickly and cease by mid sum­mer, when the fam­ily dis­perses. How­ever, there is no rea­son why they would not be back next year.

If you have any ques­tions about Na­ture Notes call Owen Leyshon on 01797 367934 or visit

The greater spot­ted wood­pecker

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