Grey-headed Woodpecker

rey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus.


Other English names: Grey-faced Woodpecker, Grey-headed Green Woodpecker.


Genus: Picus, Linnaeus 1758. First described by Gmelin in 1788.


Above: Adult male, Dunarea Veche, Danube Delta, Romania, February 5th, 2005 (Jean-Baptiste Pons).



Measurements: Length 25-27 cm. Wingspan 38-40 cm. Thus a medium sized woodpecker, similar in size to White-backed Woodpecker, smaller than Green and larger than Great Spotted.


General: Mostly olive-green or moss green in colour. More compact in appearance than its close relative Green Woodpecker being some 20% smaller. Noticeably smaller headed than that species, with a thicker, shorter neck and a shorter, finer, slightly upturned bill, all particularly evident when in flight. Grey head and shoulders, minimal black on face, only lores and narrow malar stripe black, not all the orbital area as nominate Green Woodpecker. Thus it lacks the intense, alert look of that species. Most of the under-parts are a plain pale-grey. Iris is white or slightly pinkish. Bill mainly grey to charcoal with base of lower mandible paler sometimes with a yellowish hue. Legs greenish-grey.


Above: Adult male, Budapest, Hungary (Szabolcs Kókay).



Adult male: Sexual dimorphism is mainly reflected in fore-crown colour, but also in overall brightness and size. Male has a bright red fore-crown. Head, crown, cheeks, nape, neck and shoulders uniform ashy grey. Neck often a darker grey than the face. Lores and thin malar stripe black and throat pale grey or dirty white. Chin and throat whitish. Base of bill sometimes black. Thin grey supercilium. Mantle, back, scapulars, tertials and upper wing-coverts dull, olive-green. Rump brighter green than rest of upper-parts, sometimes yellowish, but rarely as obvious yellow as on Green Woodpecker. Under-parts from throat to under-tail coverts and vent are plain grey or a dirty white, except for a greenish tinge on the upper breast. Under-parts essentially unbarred though may be a few dark flecks or chevrons on the under tail-coverts. Tail bottle green, darker than olive-green upper-parts, with plain unbarred outer rectrices. Primaries charcoal, sometimes with brownish

tinge, with white barring or dots near tips. Rest of flight feathers greenish-brown discreetly dotted white or yellow.


Below: Adult male, Sweden, December 2005 (Göran Ekström)

Adult female: As male except red fore-crown lacking, female showing grey here with fine black flecks. Also black malar stripe is often narrower and shorter, and may not touch base of bill. Some females may have a few blackish or even red flecks on the fore-crown, but this usually only visible on birds examined at close quarters. Overall a duller green than male. Bill slightly shorter, but almost impossible to discern unless both adults seen together. Females are also slightly smaller than males.



Above: Adult female, Sweden, December 2005 (Göran Ekström). Note lack of red.



Juvenile male: Juvenile male and female are visibly separable. Juvenile male similar to adult male, but green areas duller. Some light grey-brown barring on flanks. Overall a scaly appearance. Rump is dark green rather than yellowish. Some wing coverts, tertials and secondaries lightly barred. White spots on primaries larger than on adult. Black malar stripe very thin and often hardly visible at all. Patch of red on fore-crown, but less extensive than on adult male, sometimes just a smudge, always duller and with a few grey feather tips. Iris colour is variable but tends to be darker, reddish rather than pink. Bill lighter, more yellow. Legs pale grey.


Juvenile female: As juvenile male but lacking red on fore-crown and thus very like adult female.

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