Bavarian State Institute of Forestry
Section Biodiversity, Conservation and Hunting
Phone: +49 (8161) / 71 - 4156
Fax: +49 (8161) / 71 - 4971
A great spotted woodpecker – or could it be a Syrian woodpecker? Unless you look very carefully, it is easy to confuse the two birds. But the Syrian woodpecker has one key feature that enables us to distinguish it from the great spotted woodpecker, and it has thus been detected in Germany for the first time.
|Fig. 1: The Syrian woodpecker is easy to confuse with the great spotted woodpecker (Picture: M. Püls).|
|Fig. 2: The bird can be observed in the Kronach district (Picture: M. Püls).|
The presence of a Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopus syriacus) in Germany has in the year 2016 been substantiated for the very first time – in the Oberfranken region. It is very easy to confuse the Syrian woodpecker, which normally lives in south-eastern Europe, with the great spotted woodpecker, which is common here. On taking a second look, however, an observant birdwatcher had her doubts about the identity of what she had initially believed to be a great spotted woodpecker. She sent a photo of the woodpecker to the Bavarian Society for the Protection of Birds (Landesbund für Vogelschutz in Bayern/LBV), asking them to identify the bird. Conservationists there quickly agreed that it really was a pure-bred Syrian woodpecker! Hybrids resulting from cross-breeding with the great spotted woodpecker also occur.
The first documented evidence of the Syrian woodpecker in Germany is in keeping with the predictions of European ornithologists. They have said that the woodpecker is a species that likes the warmth and that will spread northwards and westwards over the next few decades from south-eastern Europe to central Europe. Not far away there is already evidence of them breeding in the Czech Republic. One key identifying characteristic of the Syrian woodpecker can be discerned by all birdwatchers for themselves: unlike the great spotted woodpecker, the Syrian woodpecker does not have the black "reins" at the nape of its neck. The lower spine area is also less red, it has lightly dotted lines along its flanks, and the outer tail feathers are mainly black, daubed with just a little white.