White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 232,000-586,000 pairs, which equates to 464,000-1,170,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.35% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 1,320,000-3,350,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline. Massive declines have been observed in Scandinavia. The population is in decline locally throughout much of its range owing to intensive forestry management, removal of dead wood and introduction of conifers (del Hoyo et al. 2002). It has apparently extended its range in Slovenia and Switzerland. However the apparent expansion in Slovenia is now thought to be as a result of an increased number of observers (K. Denac in litt. 2015). The European population trend is thought to be stable in the short-term (2000-2012) (BirdLife International 2015).


The species occurs in broad-leaved forest. It uses old-growth and overmature but relatively open deciduous and mixed forest with a high proportion of dead trees and fallen timber (Winkler and Christie 2002). In central and southern Europe it is found in forests dominated by beech (Fagus spp.), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and oak (Quercus spp.) and in northern and eastern Europe forests dominated by birch (Betula spp.) and aspen (Populus tremula) (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). Courtship begins in February and egg-laying from late April to May or June. Both sexes excavate the nest in the soft wood of a dead or decaying tree, stump or branch, or in a utility pole. Clutch size generally three to five eggs (Winkler and Christie 2002). It is highly insectivorous and only occasionally takes plant matter. It specialises on wood-boring beetle larvae, particularly longhorn species (Coleoptera) but also feeds on flies, carpenter moths and carpenter ants (Gorman 2014). The species is generally resident with some local movements (Winkler and Christie 2002).


Intense forest management, leading to a reduction of dead wood or the introduction of conifers results in a reduction in population size (Winkler and Christie 2002, Håpnes 2003), accompanied by loss of genetic diversity (Winkler and Christie 2002).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. The species is listed as Critically Endangered on the Swedish Red List (Gärdenfors 2010) and a national Species Action Plan was published in 2005 (Mild and Stighäll 2005). Norwegian birds were translocated to Sweden (Håpnes 2003) and a captive breeding programmes set up in order to supplement the dwindling population there. Some reserves were established as was successful management to create dead wood, however the achievement of the targets planned in 2005–2008 was on average much lower than planned (Blicharska et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Everywhere, this species's survival is dependent on preservation of reasonably large areas of unmanaged deciduous forest (Winkler and Christie 2002, Håpnes 2003), including dead wood. Restoration of natural habitats is also important (Håpnes 2003).


Text account compilers
Fernando, E.

Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Denac, K., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Dendrocopos leucotos. Downloaded from on 17/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 17/08/2022.