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The Green Woodpecker The Natural and Cultural History of Picus viridis

By: Gerard Gorman(Author)
212 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations
The Green Woodpecker is a comprehensive monograph on the natural and cultural history of this iconic bird and is richly illustrated throughout.
The Green Woodpecker
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  • The Green Woodpecker ISBN: 9781784274368 Paperback Apr 2023 In stock
Price: £24.99
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About this book

This book describes the natural and cultural history of an iconic and unusual woodpecker – a species that nests in tree cavities but which forages mostly on the ground. The Green Woodpecker, known in folk English as the Yaffle, is afforded comprehensive coverage in this work, with information on its origins, taxonomy, anatomy, appearance, moult, calls, distribution, conservation status, habitats, movements, breeding, diet and relationships with other wildlife and humans all presented.

The text is richly illustrated throughout with quality photographs as well as sound spectrograms. Many eye-opening observations of Green Woodpecker behaviour are detailed. This all-encompassing and engaging account has been written for a wide audience, whether professional ornithologist, citizen scientist, amateur birder, woodpecker aficionado, or simply someone who wishes to learn more about this curious and remarkable bird.


About the author   vii
Acknowledgements   viii
Preface   x

1. Origins and Taxonomy   1
2. Anatomy and Morphology   7
3. Descriptions and Identification   18
4. Moult, Ageing and Sexing   24
5. Relatives   37
6. Communication   48
7. Distribution, Population and Trends   62
8. Challenges and Conservation   74
9. Habitats   83
10. Behaviour   94
11. Movement and Flight   107
12. Breeding   115
13. Cavities   126
14. Tracks and Signs   141
15. Foraging and Food   150
16. Relationships   166
17. Folklore, Mythology and Symbolism   176

References   190
Index   204

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Well written and full of information
    By Keith 4 Aug 2023 Written for Paperback
    This book started life as a smaller monograph, self-published by the author in 2020. At 167 pages that was the germ of an idea that has now grown into a more extensive work on the species with many more photographs and tables. The structure of both books is similar and some text has been included and expanded.

    Opening with a chapter looking at origins and taxonomy, we are reminded that most authorities recognise three races – although you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart in the field. In a section on anatomy and morphology, there are examples of how the species is particularly designed for ground-feeding, with a longer tongue than most other woodpeckers, with a particularly barbed tip. The bird is then described in some detail and there is a section on moult, ageing and sexing which includes photographs of the various feathers and their positions together with excellent images of birds in the hand.

    The Picus genus is entirely an Old World group with between 13-15 members depending on who you follow. In a chapter on related species particular attention is given to Levaillant’s Woodpecker P. vaillantii, Iberian Green Woodpecker P. sharpei and Grey-headed Woodpecker P. canus. Only the latter two overlap with the Green Woodpecker and both occasionally hybridise with it.

    There is quite a detailed chapter on communication, describing the range of calls and how they are used. This is a species that is not known to use drumming for territorial communication purposes, but there are soft and intimate drumming sounds that occur when a pair are close together – something that few people are lucky to witness.

    A major chapter on distribution assesses how the species is faring across its range. There may be as many as one million pairs in total, ranging from sea level up to 2500 m or more. Increases in the west of its range may have been offset by apparent decreases in some northerly areas. Despite expansion in Britain which saw birds move into Scotland in the 1950s, there has been a more recent downturn since a peak in about 2008. It would seem that although we regularly destroy suitable habitats for Green Woodpeckers by removing old trees, we also create feeding areas through the planting of lawns in areas where rough grassland is now scarce.

    There is a lengthy section on behaviour. Green Woodpeckers are often solitary even when paired. But it is a species that reacts strongly when antagonised. Examples of reactions are given and there is additional information on activities such as bathing, anting and sunning. There is also a section on movements – although ringing results reveal that most birds remain within a few kilometres of their natal area.

    The largest sections cover breeding and the use of cavities, and Gorman’s own studies reveal a strong preference in Hungary for facing a southerly direction. There are also sections on feeding, tracks and signs, predators and relationships and folklore.

    This is a well-written book that brings together a wealth of information. Nobody has done more on a European scale to promote woodpecker issues than Gerard Gorman. His monograph on the Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla (Pelagic 2022) was a great success and this book on the Green Woodpecker Picus viridis deserves to be the same.
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Gerard Gorman is a global authority on the Picidae. He has published numerous papers and six previous books on this fascinating family of birds, including Woodpeckers of the World: The Complete Guide (2014) and The Wryneck (2022). For the past 30 years, he has travelled the world studying woodpeckers, believing that time in the field is the only way to really get to know them. He lives in Budapest and is a founder member and current leader of the Hungarian Woodpecker Working Group.

By: Gerard Gorman(Author)
212 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations
The Green Woodpecker is a comprehensive monograph on the natural and cultural history of this iconic bird and is richly illustrated throughout.
Media reviews

"A fascinating and compelling biography of one of the most charismatic of all European birds, written by the world expert on woodpeckers."
– Stephen Moss, naturalist and author

"Such a striking and characterful bird as the green woodpecker fully deserves a book of its own, and Gerard Gorman, an international authority on woodpeckers, does the species proud with this fascinating, informative and highly readable account of its natural history and place in our culture. Comprehensive in its detail and beautifully illustrated, the book explores the life of this intriguing bird, from its appetite for ants and complicated repertoire of calls to the physical adaptations that enable it to chisel out nest cavities in trees. The author's expertise and experience in the field shine through as he celebrates the unique qualities that make the green-backed, bandit-masked, crimson-crowned, hard-staring, long-tongued, ground-feeding, loud-calling 'Yaffle' so special."
– Charlie Elder, author of The Everyday Guide to British Birds

"No one else in the world could have written this captivating book, which combines biology, ecology, and culture in a way that situates the green woodpecker firmly in the fortunate landscapes it inhabits. Gerard Gorman writes with his usual grace and verve, making this not just a must-read but a want-to-keep-reading title for anyone interested in birds and their connections to the natural and the cultural world."
– Rick Wright, author and ornithologist

"World woodpecker expert Gerard Gorman has produced yet another beautiful monograph on one of his chosen species. Beautifully illustrated, well written and supported by an extensive reference list this is a great little book and a credit to the author and publisher."
– Ken Smith, The Woodpecker Network

"A fascinating window into the world of the Green Woodpecker."
– David Lindo (The Urban Birder)

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