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  • Writer's pictureMarsh Farm Glamping

The Green Woodpecker

(Picus viridis)

Who doesn’t love catching sight of an elusive woodpecker as they flit from tree to tree? We are very lucky, here at the farm, to have resident great spotted woodpeckers, and also, green woodpeckers. Green woodpeckers are the largest of the three UK species (the lesser spotted is the smallest) and are easily recognised by their green plumage and yellow rump topped off with a striking red cap. Both sexes have a black ‘moustache’ and the males are identified by the red streak across its centre.  

A green woodpecker in a tree, looking upwards

Unlike the others, green woodpeckers don’t ‘drum’ to communicate, but instead use their unmistakeable laughing call, known as a yaffle. You can check out their yaffle call here: RSPB

We regularly see our green woodpeckers flying up from the driveway and into the orchard when we arrive home. This is because their main diet is ants, and they use their long beaks to probe the ground and then suck them up with their sticky tongue. Which, come to think about it, must mean we have a lot of ants hanging out up our drive!

Although they don’t use drumming to communicate, they do still nest in holes in trees, using their powerful beaks to chip away at the wood over a period of a few weeks. Widespread in the UK, green woodpeckers usually lay 4-6 eggs, which go on to hatch after only 3 weeks, and they can live up to 5 years.

A green woodpecker sitting on grass looking for ants

Fortunately, these beautiful birds are classified as ‘green’ under the UK Birds of Conservation Concern, and 46,000 pairs were recorded in the UK in 2016.

Apparently, green woodpeckers have the ability to summon rain. In folklore they have many names, some based on this mythical ability, such as the weather cock, or rain bird. Due to their laughing call, they are also known as Laughing Betsey or the Yaffle. Here in Somerset, with our unique lingo, they are known as Yappingales.

So do keep an eye out next time you come and stay at Marsh Farm Glamping and do let us know if you spot one of our resident Yappingales sailing across the meadow!

Image of woodpecker in tree by Medgyesi Jenő from Pixabay

Image of woodpecker on grass by Sébastien goodseb from Pixabay

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