Sunday, 13 July 2014

Prehistoric Woodpecker - July 2014

The local Green Woodpeckers were particularly vocal this afternoon in the field behind my house, but even so it was a real surprise when one turned up in my net. This is not a species I get to handle that often, although we did catch three during the ringing sessions at Titchfield Haven last year. This individual was a juvenile bird that was still exhibiting the heavy mottling that they show, and the grey iris. In this plumage you have to admit that Green Woodpeckers look as if they would be better placed in prehistoric times, and resemble a Pterodactyl.

Juvenile Male Green Woodpecker

Juvenile Green Woodpeckers undergo a partial post-juvenile moult which involves the primary, tail and body feathers; they do not moult their secondaries, primary coverts or tertials. Adult birds undergo a complete moult post breeding. They can usually be sexed from June, and it is possible to see the red malar stripe in the picture above that identifies this bird as a male.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker showing primary moult

The image above shows the primary moult in this individual, and no moult in the secondaries or tertials, as would be expected. Green Woodpeckers will breed at one year old and according to the BTO website the longevity record is 15 years and 8 days and was set in 1985.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker showing bright yellow rump.

Green Woodpeckers feed mainly on ants, which is why they are often seen on the ground. Their long thin tongue is around 10cm long and is armed with barbs that hook the ants out of their nests. Local names for the Green Woodpecker include 'yaffle', 'pick-a-tree' and 'rain fowl'.

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