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Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Rudi Petitjean
Belgium, 25 March 2007
Dryobates minor

Dendrocopos minor


14-16.5 cm (5½-6½ in)

  • Black and white barring on upperparts
  • White, or buffish underparts
  • Black cheek stripe does not reach crown
  • Face is white or buff.

Male has a red crown; female black.


About eleven races are recognised differing slightly in size and colour. Generally, birds with longer bills and wings and whiter plumage occur in the north and smaller birds with buffier underparts are found in the south but much intergradation occurs and there are few distinct boundaries between races.

Similar Species

Photo © by Pavel
Durankulak, Northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, 27 January 2006

Lesser Spotted is very much smaller than Great or Middle Spotted Woodpecker and has no red on the body.


A widespread breeding bird from southern Britain, France and northern Spain east across Eurasia to the northern China, Sakhalin and northern Japan. To the north breeds over most of Fenno-Scandia and across Russia except the extreme north. Range extends south to the Pyrenees, southern Italy and Greece and also breeds in western and northern Turkey and the Caucasus. More isolated populations breed in scattered parts of central and southern Iberia, the Azores and northern Algeria. May breed on Sardinia but status unclear, former breeder on Sicily.

Resident but may be nomadic and sometimes eruptive in the north and east. Breeding range has contracted in some areas and especially scarce in Iberia and North Africa.

Vagrants recorded on the Balearic Islands and Corsica.


Male, Subspecies ledouci
Photo © by Karim Haddad
Djijel, Algeria, December 2017


There are 11 subspecies[1]:


Woodland and forest containing dead and dying trees but favours deciduous trees and orchards, sometimes parks and large gardens, and tends to avoid conifers.


Feeds high in branches rather than on the trunk of the tree and can be very difficult to locate. The best time to look for this species is in early spring when the birds are calling and there are few leaves on the trees.


Flight is undulating. Climbs trees.


They mainly eat insects gleaned from the bark of trees; in the summer mostly caterpillars, aphids and beetles. Will visit feeders for peanuts.


Recording by Keith Dickinson
Adel Dam NR, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK, April 2015


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dryobates minor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/56214 on 24 April 2019).

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