23rd March 2018 Daniel Roca

Iberian Green Woodpecker and more

Woodpeckers in Europe tend to be quite shy, I’d say more than their relatives in North America. In Iberia, all seven species present –counting Wryneck–  keep themselves concealed on tree tops most of the time, and it takes patience to be able to get good views of them. When they show up, they don’t stay exposed in the open for a long time.

That’s why, in order to enjoy these birds, it’s important to know certain places where they live in higher densities, and still standing dead trees make it easier to spot them. Today, just outside of Barcelona city, at nearby Llobregat river Delta, we were able to enjoy the three species that can be seen the area –most wrynecks are yet to arrive, although a few winter here–.

Forest birds are on the rise in Catalonia. They have been for the last decades; the increase of wooded land due to the abandonment of agriculture in less favorable areas is a key factor. The other being the ageing of forests, that now have more dead wood and thicker trunks. This has caused a well documented expansion in the range of species like the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. But most of them benefit from this trend. The other side of the coin would be open land birds, which are in serious trouble in some cases, due to the loss of habitat, as well as a decrease in the quality of their habitat.

Of course, today the first views of Iberian Green Woodpecker were of birds flying away. Just a glimpse of bright green and red. And before that, their call, which can be heard from a long distance.

Iberian Green Woodpecker
But eventually, with a little bit of patience, good views were achieved.

Iberian Green Woodpecker
The old poplar plantations are probably one of the easiest habitats where these birds can be seen. Iberian Green Woodpecker, Picus sharpei, once considered a subspecies of Picus viridis, is now regarded as a full species. Check out the lack of black around the eye on this female bird. Click to enlarge:

Iberian Green Woodpecker
When the bird turns its head, the bright red on the crown is revealed.

Iberian Green Woodpecker
This male bird shows another feature of the Iberian Green Woodpecker: Black on the moustache is restricted to a line below. On northern Europe birds, black usually surrounds entirely the red moustache. See also the strong tail feathers, that help the bird stand on this vertical surface.

Iberian Green Woodpecker
We also had great views of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Compare the size of this female bird with the House Sparrow on the upper-left side of the picture. Just about the same size, these birds are tiny!

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Finally, today the less cooperative was the Great Spotted Woodpecker, which showed up just for a few seconds.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
An adult Bonelli’s Eagle flew past the area, chased by a Raven. It was time to go; other habitats, other landscapes, other birds were waiting for us.

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