Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 12,900,000-19,300,000 pairs, which equates to 25,800,000-38,600,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.35% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 73,700,000-110,300,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
In Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 show that populations have undergone a moderate increase (EBCC 2015). In the short-term (2000-2012) the European population is estimated to have increased (BirdLife International 2015).


This species uses all kinds of woodland and forest, from pure broadleaved forest to unmixed stands of conifers. It is also common in copses, tree avenues, parks and gardens. It uses olive and poplar (Populus) plantations and up to cedar (Cedrus), pine (Pinus), pine-oak and cork oak (Quercus suber) woods in North Africa. It is found in alder (Alnus) and rhododendron in northern Myanmar and common in deciduous, mixed or coniferous woods and parks in Japan (Winkler et al. 2015). Egg-laying is from mid-April to June (later in the far north and at higher altitudes). The species is monogamous and both sexes excavate a new hole each year, in a dead or living tree of a wide variety of species. Occasionally utility poles are used and nest boxes as well. Clutches can be four to eight eggs but normally five to seven. Its diet is varied and displays clear seasonal changes in more seasonal habitats. It feeds mainly on invertebrates but will also take crustaceans and mussels, coniferous seeds, nuts, acorns, buds, tree sap, berries, fruit and possibly nectar. It is also notorious for taking the eggs and young of other birds. It is mostly resident and dispersive although northern populations are also subject to eruptive migration (Winkler et al. 2015).


Harsh winters can cause significant mortality in this species. Fragmentation of habitat is a threat locally. The Canary Island races canariensis and thanneri are currently probably the most vulnerable, especially the former, which may be at some risk because of human exploitation of Canarian pine forest (Winkler et al. 2015). Air pollution, causing die-back in forests, in central and eastern Europe appears to have mixed effects; where damage is heavy, nesting possibilities, food supply and food quality deteriorate causing a decline in woodpeckers, although the impact of this is unknown. Hybridization is known to occur with Syrian Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos syriacus) (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. Canary Island races canariensis and thanneri are listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species.

Conservation Action Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Protection of areas of Canarian pine from exploitation would help secure this species in the Canary Islands. Research into the long term effects of air pollution on forests in central and eastern Europe is needed in order to determine its impact on this species.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Dendrocopos major. Downloaded from on 07/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 07/02/2023.