23 January 2008
Only two species of black and white woodpeckers occur in the UK - the great spotted and lesser spotted. In spring and summer, we often receive phone calls and e-mails from people who are sure they have a middle spotted woodpecker in their garden.
The confusion arises when young great spotted woodpeckers leave the nest. Like a middle spotted woodpecker, they have a red top to their head and similar black and white markings on the body. Though middle spotted woodpeckers are just across the Channel in northern France, because they are not migratory, they have never made it to this country.
The lesser spotted woodpecker can also cause identification problems if seen only briefly. As its name suggests, it is a smaller bird (only the size of a house sparrow). It does not have a red undertail and the black and white on the wings forms roughly horizontal lines, like the rungs of a ladder.
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