Black Woodpecker

Dryocopus martius (Linnaeus, 1758)

Picus martius L., Klain, 1909: 55.

Order Piciformes

Family Picidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU A(3 c, e), BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, BD-I.

General distribution. A Palearctic species inhabiting the taiga and the zone of the deciduous forests in Eurasia. A glacial relict. Comparatively rare in the Balkan Peninsula.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Resident. Until the 1950s, it was widely distributed in the mountainous and flat forests [1]. In 1980, there were data of finding it in the Balkan range, the Rila-Rhodope massif, the mountains Strandzha and Sredna Gora, less often in the valleys; according to an expert appraisal, about 1 000 pairs [2]. Later studies showed a larger distribution in the mountains and new habitats in the valleys [3; Shurulinkov, personnal communication]. The area inhabited is about 2 mln ha [4]. Depending on the quality of the forests, at an average density from 500 to 2 000 ha/1 pairs, the numbers for Bulgaria are 1 500 2 000 pairs; in the Western Rhodopes 470-530, the Central and the Western Balkan range 300-400, Rila mountain (130-170), Strandzha mountain (100-130) [2; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11].

Biology. The pairs do not separate for the winter [11]. The multiplication period is from the middle of February until the middle of March. The nesting chamber is dug out in the trunk of a tree with a diameter over 40 cm and at a height over 4 m, or old breeding chambers and hollows for spending nights are used. It lays in April (3-6 eggs), incubates for 12-14 days, the young ones fly away 24-31 days after hatching; if the clutch is lost, it breeds for the second time [8, 11, 12, 13]. The food includes bark-eating beetles, their larvae and ants [8, 9, 10]. The sectors of the pairs in old coniferous forests are about 300 ha, in beech forests 400, and in oak forest 500-600 ha [5, 6, 7]; there are similar data for Central Europe and Russia. In forests with few dying and large-sized trees, the sector has an area of 1 000 1 600 ha [8; 9; 14].

Habitats. It prefers vast old coniferous, beech and mixed forests (up to 2 100 m) [1, 6, 7, 8, 11, 14].

Negative factors. Felling old forests and sanitary felling. Decrease of the nutrition base, in particular of the red ant. Competition by the Grey-headed Woodpecker, the White-backed Woodpecker and the Green Woodpecker. The narrow specialization to feeding and habitat.

Conservation measures taken. The species and its habitats are protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria (1985) in the category rare. About 20% of the multiplying pairs inhabit National Parks and Natural Parks.

Conservation measures needed. Declaration of Protected Territories in the mountains Western Rhodopes, Western Balkans, Pirin, Sredna Gora, the Ludogorie region, Kotlenska Planina. Moratorium on the use of forests in closed basins and protected territories, and, outside those, some 25-30 old trees per every 1 ha must be left during restoration felling. Restriction of sanitary felling in old forests.

References. 1. Patev, 1950. 2. Spiridonov, 1985. 3. Spiridonov, 1985 4. Iankov (in print). 5. Spiridonov et al., 1983. 6. Spiridonov, 1999a. 7. Spiridonov, 1999-b. 8. Blume, 1973. 9. Vladishevski, 1980. 10. Fedyushin, Dolbik, 1967. 11. Ivanchev, 2000. 12. Spiridonov, 1982. 13. Makach, 1976. 14. Nilsson, 1997.

Authors: Geko Spiridonov, Stoyan Nikolov, Tsvetan Zlatanov, Radoslav Stanchev

Black Woodpecker (distribution map)

Black Woodpecker (drawing)