Measuring 45 to 55 cm (18 to 22 in), it is easily the largest woodpecker in its range and is second in size only to the great slaty woodpecker amongst the woodpecker species certain to exist, although its average mass is similar to that of the Magellanic woodpecker of South America. The closely related pileated and white-bellied woodpeckers also broadly overlap in size with the black woodpecker, but both are somewhat smaller in average and maximal size and mass. The plumage of this crow-sized woodpecker is entirely black apart from a red crown. In males, the entire crown is red, but in females only the top hindcrown is red with the rest of the body all black. The juvenile black woodpecker is similar but is less glossy, with a duller red crown and a paler grey throat and bill . The piercing yellow eyes and manic, high-pitched calls of the black woodpecker have made it the villain of fairy tales throughout its range. Unlike other woodpecker species, the black woodpecker does not have a dipping, bounding flight but instead flies with slow, unsteady-seeming wing beats with its head raised.
Habitat and Distribution
The black woodpecker is mainly found in forested regions, with a preference for extensive, mature woodland, including coniferous, tropical, subtropical and boreal forests. It is very widespread throughout mountainous and lowland forests. It is more likely to occur in marginal woods near human habitations during the non-breeding season. This species has been observed at elevations between 100 and 2,400 m (330 and 7,870 ft).
The woodpecker feeds by using its bill to hammer on dead trees to dig out carpenter ants and wood-boring grubs. The selection of foods is relatively predictible, narrow and consistent in this species.
When the nest is ready, the female lays a single clutch of two to eight eggs, the average being four to six. The nest hole, usually in a live poplar or pine tree. The breeding pair take it in turns to incubate the eggs, also sharing duties of feeding and brooding the chicks once they have hatched. The nestlings may fight their way to the entrance of the nest in order to be fed first. After 18 to 35 days the young black woodpecker will leave the nest, staying with the adults for another week.
Calls and Songs
Their voice is remarkable in that it has two different calls. One is a short single high-pitched note, a loud, whistling kree-kree-kree, done only twice in a row. The other is a screech-like shrill while in flight.