WOODPECKERS OF EUROPE A Study of the European Picidae.
Author: Gerard Gorman.
Artwork: Szabolcs Kókay
Published by Bruce Coleman Books.
192 pages, 10 colour plates, distribution maps, 72 line drawings
Published: July 2004.
A review by Mark Cocker for BBC Wildlife Magazine
Woodpeckers are sufficiently widespread for most people to have seen them, but scarce enough for our encounters to be touched by a sense of occasion. Throw in their graphic colours, specialised lifestyle and atmospheric drumming (vocalisations) and you have the basis of the bird’s long-standing appeal. No surprise, then that Europe’s woodpeckers have already been exclusively covered. So is there really scope for this new study? Having trawled with relish through this informative and beautifully illustrated title, I would answer yes. This is a bird book that stands firmly outside the modern tradition in ornithological writing, which is characterised by an overwhelming and, arguably tedious fixation with the bird’s appearance. Instead the author demonstrates a passionate interest in the whole creature and has written, in effect, a biography for each of the Continent’s ten species, covering in detail their habitat, preferences, and foraging techniques, breeding behaviour and, unusually, the signs and holes that they leave behind. The author is an Englishman living in Budapest. He speaks several European languages, which has given him access to the very latest Continental research. But it is not just the depth of expertise that shines through – it is his enthusiasm for woodpeckers simply as living creatures. The text is packed with all sorts of quirky, personalised observations, such as the fact that Great Spotted Woodpeckers drum on street lamps, the better to broadcast their presence: that Green Woodpeckers have an amazingly long tongue that can turn corners inside a beetle’s burrow: and the fact that the Black Woodpecker is the only European bird that can excavate cavities in the timber of living trees. It may come at a rather high price for a slim volume, but this is a superb book and it is also a testimony to what an amateur can achieve with a good deal of patience, an understanding family and a healthy dose of obsession.
Papers and Articles On Woodpeckers by Gerard Gorman
Identifying the presence of woodpecker species on the basis of their holes and signs. Aquila 102. 1995.
The Rot Sets In (White-backed Woodpecker) Birdwatch, Issue 77, Nov 1998.
Black Woodpecker in Europe – Britain next? Birding World Vol.11.10 (1998).
Pecking Order (Finding Woodpeckers). Birdwatch, Issue 81, March 1999.
The Identification of Syrian Woodpecker. Alula, Vol.5, 3/1999.
Three-toed Woodpecker – species, races, clines. Birding World, Vol.17.5.May 2004.
Drum major (White-backed Woodpecker ID). Birdwatch, Issue 145, July 2004.
Balkanspetten sprider sig norrut i Europa. Var Fagelvarld, 5/1997.
Syyriantikan maarrittaminen. Alula, Vol.5, 3/1999.
Identification du Pic syriaque (Dendrocopos syriacus) et repartition en Europe. Ornithos, Vol.3. No.4 (1996).
Atipikus farokmintázatú nagy fakopáncs. (Great Spotted Woodpecker with atypical tail colouration). Túzok, Vol.2. No.4 (1997).
Harkályok Nyomában (Woodpecker signs). Madártávlat, Vol.5,No.1.1998.
Balkáni fakopáncs (Dendropcopos syriacus) műhelyei. (Syrian Woodpecker Anvils) Túzok, Vol.4. No.4 (1999).
My Year with the Woodpeckers. Heinz Sielmann (Readers Union, London, 1961). Out of print classic. Sometimes available in second-hand high-street and internet bookshops.
Woodland Birds. Eric Simms (Collins New Naturalist Series, 1990). Another out of print classic.
Woodpeckers: A Guide to the Woodpeckers, Piculets and Wrynecks of the World. Winkler, H., D, Christie & D, Nurney. (Pica Press, Robertsbridge, 1995).
Ahlen, I. & S. G. Nilsson (1982) Species richness and area requirements of forest bird species on islands with natural forests in Lake Malaren and Hjalmaren. Var Fagelvarld 41: 161-184.
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