White-backed Woodpecker

Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi (Sharp & Dresser, 1871)

Dendrocopus leuconotus Sharp & Dresser: Reiser, 1894: 98; Dryobates leucotus (error tipographica = leucotos) lilfordi Sharp & Dresser: Patev, 1950: 147; Picus lilfordi Sharp & Dresser.: Klain1909: 59. Picoides leucotos (Bechstein, 1803): Simeonov, Michev, 1991: 172; Simeonov et al., 1997: 357.

Order Piciformes

Family Picidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [A 4 c, e], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, BD-I.

General distribution. A Palearctic species inhabiting the deciduous forests in the boreal zone of Eurasia and partially in Central Europe; the subspecies D. l. lilfordi is a glacial relict with a scattered area: the Pyrenees, Abruzzi, the Balkan peninsula, Asia Minor, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Resident. Until the middle of the 20th century it was found in all mountains [1]. In 1980, breeding places in some mountains were confirmed [2]. It breeds in the Central and Western Balkan range, Sredna Gora, Rila, Pirin, the Western Rhodopes, Strandzha and in some isolated breeding places [2; 3; 4; 5; Shurulinkov unpublished information]. Numbers: 700 1 100 pairs, mosaically on a forest area of about 450 thousand ha with an average density of 400-650 ha/pairs; for the Balkan peninsula the data [6] are exaggerated; most probably the breeding pairs are 2 000 3 500.

Habitats. Old beech, beech-coniferous and oak forests at altitudes of up to 1700 m, with more dead and dying trees [2].

Biology. The clutches (3-7 eggs) are in April and May. It incubates for 14-16 days, the young ones staying in the nest for 27-28 days [7]. At the end of June feeding of young birds before their flying away from the nest was observed in a hollow of a pine-spruce some 20 m away [Spiridonov, unpubl. data], in June young ones having flown out of the nest [8; 9]. 90 % of the food consists of insects-xylophages and their larvae [10; 11; 12; 13]. The breeding territory of the pair in climax forests is 100-150 ha and is permanent [12; 13; 14].

Similar species. Larger than the other spotted woodpeckers, without shoulder white spots and with black transverse belts on the lower part of the back.

Negative factors. Felling old deciduous forests, their fragmentation and sanitary felling. The narrow specialization with respect to a habitat. The competition, mainly of the black woodpecker.

Conservation measures taken. The species and its habitats are protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Declared as Natural Parks are the mountains Central Balkans, Pirin and Rila and Strandzha, as well as the Rila Monastery, Balgarka and Vitosha, where over 60 % of the population of the species breeds.

Conservation measures needed. Declaration of Protected Territories and protected zones in Western Balkan range, the mountains Sredna gora, Pirin and the Western Rhodopes. Preservation of old forests for making a connection between the Strandzha and the Rhodopes population and between the Balkan range populations. A moratorium on the use of old forests in closed forest basins, protected territories and protected zones. Restriction of sanitary felling in old forests. Inclusion of the subspecies in the Red List of IUCN [14].

References. 1. Patev, 1950; 2. Spiridonov, 1985; 3. Iankov, in press; 4. Milchev, 1994; 5. Spiridonov, 1999; 6. BirdLife International, 2004; 7. Makatsch, 1976; 8. Jordans, 1940; 9. Paspaleva-Antonova, 1964; 10. Penev, 1936; 11. Fedyushin, Dolbik, 1967; 12. Vladishevskiy, 1980; 13. Spiridonov, Virkkala, 1997; 14. Spiridonov et al., 1987.

Authors: Geko Spiridonov, Dimitar Georgiev, Tsvetan Zlatanov

White-backed Woodpecker (distribution map)

White-backed Woodpecker (drawing)