The Great Spotted Woodpecker is 23-26 cm (9.1-10.2 in) long, with a 38-44 cm (15-17 in) wingspan. The upperparts are glossy black, with white on the sides of the face and neck. A black line zigzags from the shoulder halfway across the breast. A black stripe extends from the bill, runs below the eye to meet this zig zag line. On the shoulder is a large white patch and the flight feathers are barred with black and white. The three outer tail feathers are barred. The underparts are dull white, the abdomen and undertail coverts crimson. The bill is slate black and the legs greenish grey.

Habitat and Distribution

This bird is distributed throughout Europe and northern Asia. In Ireland it has been recorded in Tollymore Forest Park, County Down, Tomnafinnoge Woods in County Wicklow, Gorey in County Wexford, and in Cabinteely and the Phoenix Park in Dublin. It is an inhabitant of woodlands and parks.


It feeds mainly on insects and grubs but also seeds, fruit, scraps, eggs, chicks and small rodents. The woodpecker usually alights on the trunk, working upwards, from side to side, it also perches in passerine style, when it sits well upright.


Nesting trees chosen have soft heartwood and tough sapwood. The female lays five to seven creamy-white eggs during the second half of May

Calls and Songs

The call is a sharp kik, kik