The Kennedy Wild Bird Food Guide to the Green Woodpecker

With its distinctive red crown and the unmistakable sound of its call, the green woodpecker is one of Britain’s most fascinating birds. You may have spotted a green woodpecker nest in your garden – they are a notorious garden-dweller! Found across large parts of Europe (including France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Sweden), the vibrant yellow-green woodpecker is actually a timid bird who, contrary to its name, does not peck on wood to communicate (their call is enough to attract attention!)

What does the green woodpecker song sound like?

The song of the green woodpecker is a shrill sound and given its shy nature the bird is often heard but not seen. Its characteristic ‘laughing’ call is known as a ‘yaffle’ and for this reason, the green woodpecker is often referred to as ‘yaffle’, ‘yaffle bird’, ‘yaffingale’, or ‘yappingale’.

What about the green woodpecker’s appearance?

Although both male and female birds look very similar, there are a few differences between the two. Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about the green woodpecker is its eye-catching red crown and a flash of flamboyant green and yellow. These colours vary slightly depending on the sex of the bird:

Male green woodpecker

Males possess the same distinctive red crown, complete with a black ‘eye-patch’ over both eyes and another stripe of red beneath the black (this is called its ‘moustache’).

Female green woodpecker

The moustache is where the female green woodpecker differs; where the males is red, the female wears an all-black moustache.

What do green woodpeckers eat?

The green woodpecker’s diet consists mainly of ants, and you may have seen them in your garden foraging among the grass. In winter, when ants are harder to come by, the green woodpecker turns to other invertebrates (although these are likely to be sparse in Winter, too) as well as pine nuts and fruit.

Facts about the green woodpecker

  • The green woodpecker is also called ‘rainbird’, as they are thought to call more when rain is coming.
  • While their diet largely consists of invertebrates, fruit and nuts, the green woodpecker (on rare occasions) has been known to target small reptiles (lizards mostly).
  • Because the green woodpecker spends so much time on the ground, it is often exposed to snowfall – getting covered in snow is one of the bird’s biggest threats in winter.
  • The green woodpecker is highly sedentary (like the majority of the woodpecker family) – they rarely move too far from where they were hatched.
  • When looking for a mating partner, the male green woodpecker will sway its head back and forth, while stretching its wings to display its bright colourations.

Have you seen (or, most likely) heard a green woodpecker?

Although the green woodpecker is a wary bird, they’ll love it if you leave some tasty treats for them in your garden. You can get a whole range of cheap bird peanuts for them and you’ll soon have plenty of visitors.

Don’t forget to log any sightings of a green woodpecker on our Birdspotter app!