Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus


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 is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds 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 598,000-1,450,000 pairs, which equates to 1,200,000-2,900,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 6,000,000-14,500,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
Although declines occurred in parts of its European range from 1970-2000, it has been stable across much of its European range during 1990-2000 (BirdLife International 2004), although the trend between 2000 and 2012 in Europe is unknown (BirdLife International 2015).


The species inhabits mature conifer forests, particularly spruce Picea spp., and is somewhat irruptive, being found commonly where disturbance such as fire has caused local outbreaks of insects (Winkler et al. 1995).


Large-scale commercial logging and modern forestry management practices, including fire suppression and removal of dead or insect-infested trees, have led to declines. It is susceptible to habitat loss, forest degradation and fragmentation. Its relatively small population sizes, dependence on snags, and preference for burnt forest and large stands of old-growth conifers make it vulnerable to forestry practices and its survival in managed forests is not guaranteed. Modern intensive forestry methods, including clear-cutting, fire suppression, removal of dead trees and pesticide use threaten the species (Winkler and Christie 2002).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. There are no known current conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Intensive management of favoured habitats, such as old spruce- or fir-dominated forest with abundant dead wood in mountains or damp lowlands of this species should be avoided. Protected areas should cover at least 50 ha, in order to sustain a single pair. Within intensively managed mature forests, dying or dead trees should be left. If there is insufficient dead wood then cutting single mature trees to around 10 m and leaving to decay, may provide suitable nest sites (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Ashpole, J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Picoides tridactylus. Downloaded from on 05/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 05/02/2023.