LIFE13 NAT/SI/000314

Article titled »Three-toed woodpecker« in “Our natural heritage section” of Dolenjski list newspaper 

Published on 24. 7. 2015 under News
Article titled »Three-toed woodpecker« in “Our natural heritage section” of Dolenjski list newspaper 

As the name implies, the three-toed woodpeckers (Picoides tridactylus) are a bit different than the rest of the species.  They have three, instead of four toes, as the fourth has shrivelled away in the process of evolution. Instead of red, which is normal for other woodpecker species, three-toed woodpecker males’ heads are yellow in colour.

The three-toed woodpeckers are not timid, it is possible to get as close as few meters of them, which is not the case with other species of woodpeckers. The woodpecker is a typical representative of mountain pine and mixed forests, it usually inhabits areas over 800m above sea level. It’s considered an indicator species of mature stands rich with decaying and decayed trees which provide suitable environment for feeding and nesting. The males carve out nesting holes in decaying tree trunks that, after the woodpecker fledglings had left them, provide home to various other species (owls, other cavity-nesting birds, bats, rodents), which makes the role of woodpeckers invaluable in the forest ecosystem.

Since the woodpeckers’ diet consists mainly of wood-boring insects and bark beetles they help control their population and maintain ecological balance and forest health. In Slovenia it inhabits the Alpine and Dinaride biogeographical regions and region of Pohorje.

We registered 25 to 30 couples within LIFE Kočevsko project in spring, which represents close to 10% of the population in Slovenia. Living conditions in Dinarides, are favourable for the woodpeckers at the moment due to fir trees drying out and gradation of wood-boring insects. In the long term however, with population of conifers in decline and consequential shortage of appropriate trees to nest and feed in, we predict a drop in the population.

In order to acquire as much data as possible on the species, the structure of its nesting habitat as well as information on the structure and species of insects it feeds itself and its young with, the workers from Slovenia Forest Service, regional unit Kočevje, who work on the LIFE project set up a photo trap in the vicinity of its nest and observed how often and what the parents feed their young with. The parents only spent four hours in the nest in the seven days period, looking for food the rest of the time.

Author of the article titled “Three-toed woodpecker” published in “Our natural heritage section” of the Dolenjski list newspaper (available at is mr. Denis Žitnik employed at Slovenia forestry service. Pictures are the courtesy of mr. Andrej Hudoklin.