Three-toed Woodpecker

Picoides tridactylus

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Although not a particularly shy bird, the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker is often overlooked. It is somewhat smaller than the great spotted woodpecker and also appears darker on account of its black and white plumage. Its belly and back are covered with lightly-coloured, thick bars (known as a cuckoo pattern), the top of the wings are black. The crown of the female is silver-grey, while that of the male is a lemon yellow. Its name highlights the fact that - unlike other native woodpeckers - it has three rather than four toes. Two toes point towards the front and one towards the back. Three-toed woodpeckers are not common birds. Their habitat stretches across the Palaearctic and consists of natural, extensively managed conifer forests or mixed woodlands with old conifers, damaged trees and abundant deadwood. In Germany, they are particularly drawn to old mountain woodlands. It feeds on beetles and insects and their larvae found living under the tree bark. The three-toed woodpecker is a specialist predator of the bark beetle and may consume up to 2,000 of its larvae in a day. In typical woodpecker fashion, it creates holes in the tree, thereby “girdling” the bark, to forage tree sap and resin. Three-toed woodpeckers form monogamous pairs during a single mating season. However, they will often return to the same partner in following years, repeating the cycle of mating and raising young. Every year the male excavates a new cavity to shelter the brood. This is not a nest in the strictest sense. The clutch of 5 white eggs are laid on a bed of pecked-out wood shavings. The chicks hatch after 12 days and are still provided for by the parents long after they have left the nest.

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