Monday Bird of the Week No.36 – Great-spotted Woodpecker

Great-Spotted Woodpecker

Great-Spotted Woodpecker

After featuring a couple of birds of prey, we move to one of our most popular birds, the Great-Spotted Woodpecker.

It’s funny the way we classify birds. Long-term readers will know I have spoken about this before, but the idea of predators and prey is very much one of perception. Because if you are a tree dwelling insect, the Great-spotted woodpecker is a predator. If you are a small bird nesting in a hole in a tree, it can be a predator too. It can seem a trivial point, but this sanitisation of nature to allow us to enjoy certain species as if they are ‘innocent’ is a real problem, because it feeds into a narrative that paints other species as ‘bad’. Yet a Great Spotted woodpecker can be just as vicious and destructive as any corvid or falcon, as can a humble Great Tit.

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker

They have taken to garden feeders, although often as a last resort. They never look entirely happy there in my experience, becoming a mass of nervous tics, constantly casting their eyes to the skies.

It’s a lovely bird to see though, beautifully marked, and with an elegant shape to suit its habitat. In 2016 we were fortunate enough to find a nest site. As I am writing this in January 2017 I do not know if they will be in the same spot again, but by the time you read this we will know.

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker

Anything can act as a prompt for a memory. Anything can become indelibly associated with an individual. For me, the Great-spotted Woodpecker makes me think of my mother. She loved seeing it in bird books but had extraordinarily bad luck when it came to seeing one. It’s astonishing really, I’ve regularly had them in my garden but she continued to fail to see them. Fortunately she has now.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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