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Around my work I walk in local parks for a couple of hours a day, and I've noticed we have Green Woodpeckers, and I've seen them quite a few times and can now recognise them rather easily.

Recently I have seen Spotted Woodpeckers, I assumed it was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, however recently learnt we have Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the UK as well. It was pouring with rain at the time so I was unable to get a very close look at the pair. How would you tell the difference between Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers by their look and behavior?

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Size:

The great spotted is greater in size than the lesser spotted. Perhaps that goes without saying but the difference is quite significant. The great spotted is about the size of a blackbird. The lesser spotted is about the size of a sparrow.

Red:

Female lessers have a white cap. Male lessers have a red cap, juvenile greats have a red cap but they're bigger than lessers.

Greats have a red bum and males have a red patch on the back of the head. They also have larger white patches on the wings.

In summary

It's really hard to tell the difference, be glad we don't also get the middle spotted woodpecker. The chances are you saw a great spotted wookpecker because the lesser spotted is quite rare.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/lesser-spotted-woodpecker/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-spotted-woodpecker/

  • From this I'd imagine they were Greater then, as they were much larger than a sparrow! – Aravona Jun 12 at 9:53

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