The mating season

In my last post I said I was catching up, and this one is from a year ago, but I reckon if I can delay for 12 months then it will be back in season again. These green woodpeckers were in the same field as the goldfinch in the previous post and they demonstrated the brutal efficiency of natures processes one sunny Saturday morning late in March.

Before I get on to the mating season though, there have been a few firsts this week, the winter migrants are nearly all back from their winter sojourn in Africa. On an outing last weekend I saw (and/or heard) common whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, willow warbler, sedge warbler, blackcap and, best of all, nightingale, but more of that in a later post. Swallows have been in the skies over Histon since April 12th (at least that the first time I saw one, and I expect the swifts anytime from now onwards.

Some movement in the grass caught my eye around 60-70m away but I couldn’t see what it was until I peered through the binoculars and there was a lone green woodpecker rooting around for ants. As I watched a second woodpecker dropped to the ground just a few feet away, and I think you can tell from the determined look on his face what’s on his mind:

A pair of green woodpeckers – (Picus viridis, Dansk: grønspætte) the male is on the left and he’s eyeing the lady with single-minded intent

In this instance courtship lasted for no more than a few seconds:

He sized her up, leapt on board, and in a few more seconds it was mission accomplished and she was inseminated,

At which point he spun on his heel and headed for the exit with indecent speed but maximum efficiency:

The whole event was over in not more than a minute or two and not a single joule of unnecessary energy was required.

I don’t know whether green woodpeckers pair off or if they’re promiscuous, may be the courtship rituals had been observed previously, but the mating process (at least in this instance) was entirely to the point. But it seems to work pretty well and produces successive families of green woodpeckers in this particular field year on year. And I love it when the chicks have first fledged as there can be two  or three youngsters with a parent in attendance on a tree trunk or a telegraph pole, and four greenies together is a very colourful sight.

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11 responses to “The mating season

  1. The first swifts arrived here (South Devon) yesterday greeted by rain!

  2. aHEM! (blush) there should be a warning before graphic content Mr Finn! 😉 Seriously though, I love the colour of your native birds. We have gorgeous colour too but that tends to be sparse as our native birds (and our imports from the Auld Country) tend to be brown or black and camouflage ready. The “dissemination of genes” in the woodpecker clan is not so dissimilar to the dissemination of genes in upper Slough at 1am on a weekend 😉

    • Shocking stuff eh? These guys are colourful but they spend a lot of their time on the ground where they blend in very well indeed. I often flush them from the ground from just a few yards away and I’m completely unaware they’re there until they rise.

  3. Paul Seligman

    Finn – the ‘dates posted’ on this and previous post look wrong?

  4. Not a great one for romance then, the green woodpecker? As you say, you can’t fault his efficiency.

    • Hello Lorna, certainly not on this showing, unless all the candlelit dinners had already been done off-camera… the sole intention seemed to be to disseminate genes.

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