Did you notice a green bird with a red head while walking? Then it is most likely a green woodpecker. We introduce you to the forest dweller in this informative profile.

Green woodpecker in the profile

  • Latin name: Picus viridis
  • Size: 31 to 33 centimeters
  • Wingspan: 40 to 42 centimeters
  • Weight: 150 to 190 grams
  • Age: up to ten years
  • Appearance: Neck and back yellowish green in colour, red head on top
  • Food: insectivores, especially ants and insect larvae
  • Breeding season: April to August
  • Clutch: five to eight white eggs, 1 brood per year
  • Voice: laughing, gurgling, non-pitched series of calls (“kjü-kjü-kjü-kjü…”)

occurrence and distribution

The green woodpecker is widespread throughout Europe and parts of Asia. The species occurs from Great Britain and the southern tips of Scandinavia to the Mediterranean region and even Iran. It is estimated that up to 50,000 breeding pairs breed in Germany alone. The lively little birds inhabit field copses and light forests, but also feel at home in the midst of human settlements in parks and tree-filled gardens.


The green woodpecker bears its name for a reason. You can recognize him by these characteristic features:

  • olive colored neck and back
  • Belly clearly lighter: light green to greenish-grey
  • conspicuously red head
  • black mask on face
  • distinctive brownish mottled flight feathers

Males and females look very similar in coloration (green bird with red head), but can be distinguished from each other by the red cheek patch. Only the male has this signal red cheek patch, females have a black “beard” at this point. Young green woodpeckers already look very similar to their parents, but they lack the black face mask. In addition, the juvenile plumage is not yet monochromatic, but is mottled with gray, especially on the face and on the underside.

Note: The green woodpecker can easily be confused with the closely related gray woodpecker. This one, however, has a gray head instead of the red parting. In addition, the gray woodpecker lacks the black facial markings.

way of life

As is typical for all woodpeckers, the green woodpecker hacks its nest cavity into rotten wood. When searching for food, however, it hammers into the wood less often than other species, because it usually stays on the ground. For this reason it is also known as a ground woodpecker or grass woodpecker. It uses its beak in many ways to catch ants: it digs holes in the ground, clears snow and other obstacles, and even removes moss from cracks in the pavement. A busy pecking green bird sitting on the ground or in the grass is not in need of help, but a green woodpecker looking for food.

Note: A bright red head spot is also characteristic of young Great Spotted Woodpeckers and the less common Middle Spotted Woodpecker. However, these species are conspicuously marked in black and white.

nest building and brood

A green bird that flies back and forth between April and August, always heading for the same tree, is most likely caring for its young. The green woodpecker raises these in tree cavities, which it does not always create itself. The birds like to use nesting holes created by other woodpecker species, especially since its beak is not quite as strong as that of the related great spotted woodpecker. The brood cavities are about 50 centimeters deep and have an oval entrance hole about six by seven centimeters in size. Green woodpecker eggs are about three by two centimeters in size and bright white. The green woodpecker raises its young as follows:

  • first brood already in April
  • Incubation period about two weeks
  • after hatching, young remain in the nest for 23 to 27 days
  • then further care outside the nest for about seven weeks
  • usually only one brood per year
  • second brood only when the first young die

Since young green woodpeckers will be cared for by their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest, you should leave presumably abandoned juveniles where they are – the parents are most likely on their way and will soon return with food.

Note: The green woodpecker and its young have many natural enemies. Squirrels and crows are the main predators for the eggs. Furthermore, birds of prey such as the hawk, but also eagle owls, martens and cats hunt.

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