Image of Great Spotted Woodpecker

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Surprisingly this Woodpecker is not actually that 'great' and is only about the size of a starling. They are black and white with striking white shoulder patches and a bright red under tail. Males have a red patch on the nape which distinguishes them from females. Juveniles have a red crown and blotchy white shoulder patches but look quite similar to the older Woodpeckers. Their characteristic drumming noise is a good identification feature and also has the same function as a bird's song, which is to proclaim their territory. They have long been associated with water and some people believe that the sound of a Woodpecker drumming away can indicate that rain is on its way! Amazingly they strike a branch with their bill over 40 times a second to create this drumming sound! They have stiff tail feathers which they use as a prop when hopping up trees, and to assist with its grip their toes are specially arranged with two toes pointing forward and two facing backwards. These feet are called zygodactyls.

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