Birds of Indian Subcontinent

The utilization of dead wood resources by woodpeckers in Britain

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2007
Authors:Smith, KW
Date Published:2007
ISBN Number:1474-919X
Keywords:Dendrocopos, Dendrocopos major, Dendrocopos minor, Dryobates, Dryobates minor, Picidae, Picoides, Picoides major, Picoides minor, Picus, Picus viridis, United Kingdom, Xylocopus, Xylocopus minor
Abstract:Dead wood is important for woodpeckers, providing foraging, roost and nest-sites. In this paper, data from long-term studies of woodpeckers and dead wood in oakwoods in southern England are used to examine the dead wood requirements of the three British resident woodpecker species. Both Great Dendrocopos major and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor select dead trees for nest-sites although the former is able to nest in living trees too. On the other hand a smaller fraction of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nests are in living trees. Green Woodpecker Picus viridis shows no selection for dead nesting trees. Hence the smallest woodpecker species appears to be most dependent on dead and decaying trees for nest-sites. Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers show no preference for foraging on dead trees although they both make use of dead branches on living trees. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers forage on smaller branches higher in the tree than Great Spotted Woodpeckers. There has been a trend for increasing dead wood resources in the study woods with both dead wood on the ground and standing dead trees (snags) increasing in the last 20 years. The levels of dead wood are shown to be the result of continual processes of creation and decay. Around 0.5% of oak Quercus spp., Ash Fraxinus excelsior and Hornbeam Carpinus betulus and 3.4% of the birch Betula spp. trees die each year in the woods resulting in a continuity of new dead snags and fallen trees. There is a high turnover of standing dead snags of oak and birch with 95% and 80% annual survival, respectively. Snags are only suitable for nesting Great Spotted Woodpeckers for a few years after their creation. It is suggested that these stand and dead wood dynamics are likely to provide habitats more favourable for the Great Spotted than the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Short Title:Ibis
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith