The Woodpecker Network


For most of us fieldwork is very restricted or even impossible now because of Covid-19 restrictions but you can still contribute to a valuable project which will help Lesser Spotted Woodpecker conservation …and you can do it from your desk.

We know that many people take good quality images of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and by now there must be many thousands stored in the cloud and elsewhere. These may hold valuable information on food being brought to the nest that will help in the conservation of the species.

One of the key problems faced by Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers is low breeding productivity linked to poor chick survival and poor food supply. We have just analysed all the UK nest record data which shows a downward trend in the numbers of young produced per nest over the last few decades. Our paper showing this has just been accepted for publication in Bird Study – once it is available on-line, we will post a link.

5D4 0385 LSW 17052019 sq webGreen caterpillars, photo Richard JacobsResearch in Sweden and Germany has shown that the diet brought to Lesser Spotted Woodpecker young changes through the season. Young in early nests are fed on defoliating caterpillars whereas in later nests they are brought aphids and other invertebrates. The early nests do better than the late ones. We think this shift in diet is highly significant and may have changed over the last few decades with less access to caterpillars in years with warm springs.

This is how photographers can help.

Many photographers have taken images of adult Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers bringing food to their young in the nest which we could use to analyse the diet and the relative contributions of caterpillars, aphids and other invertebrates.

We have tried it with a few images and it is relatively easy to distinguish caterpillars from other prey. It would be brilliant to look at large numbers of images to quantify the composition of the diet in different places and years and through the season.

LSW NF RoundHill 2 MartinBennett 1 6 18SQwebA snail, photo Martin BennettWe are calling on photographers to help us with their lesser spotted woodpecker images from past years so we can identify the type of prey being brought. If you have any such images and are willing to share them with us please e-mail the details (place, dates, number of images) and we will discuss with you the best way to get them analysed and/or sent to us. Multiple images from a nest over the nesting cycle will be particularly valuable.

Please email Ken and Linda Smith via this website or directly to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We recognise that there will be many more images from the digital age than from earlier years but if you have some old film images they may be particularly valuable in showing what the diet was like in the period before climate change.

We will of course respect confidentiality and copyright for any images we are able to use and all contributors will be acknowledged in any reports or publications that result from the work.

There is often a great deal of discussion between bird watchers and photographers in relation to disturbance at or near nests. Our view is that everyone should be careful not to disturb breeding birds and should follow the guidance provided by organisations such as the RSPB which includes respecting the birds as well as other observers.

This project gives photographers the opportunity to allow their work to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of this declining species, please help if you can.

LSW RichardJacobs leftcolLesser Spotted Woodpecker by Richard Jacobs 2019 LSW TimPreston 256Lesser Spotted Woodpecker © Tim Preston

Don't confuse juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers with male Lesser Spots - they both have red caps!

Dont confuse your woodpeckers

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