Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus )

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This species is more white compared to its close relative, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopus major. The species also has a slightly duller patterning on its head and neck (1). This species also tends to have fewer white spots adorning the tail (2). Females and males are of roughly the same size, however the male can be distinguished by a red mark on the back of the head. 


The species can often be found in open habitats, from sea level to medium altitudes (3). This includes open woodland, mostly deciduous and coniferous woodland (3). It can also be found in parks and gardens, and cultivated areas (1), such as vineyards, orchards and public and private gardens and parks (2). 

Life Cycle

D. syriacus can be found throughout south-eastern Europe and Western Asia, from the former Yugoslav Republics through the Balkans to the Caucasus and Asia Minor and parts of the Middle East (1). Within Greece, its range is considered to cover the area comprising northern Greece: Thrace, Macedonia and eastern Thessaly(3). There is one sighting from Delphi however D. syriacus has not been encountered since then in that region. Originally, the Greek population of the species was thought to be the sole representative of the European contingent of the species (4). 


D. syriacus is a sedentary species, remaining within its home distribution (see above) throughout its lifespan (1). 


As with its appearance, there are some differences and some similarities between the calls of this species and the Great Spotted Woodpecker (1). The bird produces a sound akin to “gip-” – this is repeated if the bird is alarmed (2). When drumming, the pattern is repeated; it begins in a similar vain to that of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, but gradually descends into silence (1).  


Insects make up the bulk of this species’s diet. As with all woodpeckers, it listens for moving larvae and beetles underneath the bark, and then drills into the tree to extract them (4). D. syriacus complements the insects that it catches with fruit and small berries (2), and occasionally some nuts, walnuts and almonds (4). 

Conservation status

The total population size has been estimated for the species, at between five and ten thousand pairs (5). However, it has been suggested that this may be an underestimate – it is more likely that the breeding population is between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand pairs (3; 4). Locally, it is considered to be a common species (3). The species still requires an IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List assessment (6), however given its wide range and the number of breeding pairs, it is unlikely that conservation action will be necessary in the near future. 


Description written by M. James Rowen (2013)


            (1) Jonsson L., 2003, Birds of Europe, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.

            (2) Mullarney K., Svensson L., Zetterstrom D., Grant P. J.,1999, Collins Bird Guide: The most complete field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.

            (3) Handrinos G., Akriotis T., 1997, The Birds of Greece, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.

            (4) AviBirds, 2013, Syrian Woodpecker, [Online] Available at:, Accessed on 23/ 08/ 2013

            (5) Tucker G. M., Heath M. F., 1994, Birds in Europe: their Conservation status, Birdlife Conservation Series No. 3. Birdlife International: Cambridge, U. K.

            (6) IUCN, 2013, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2013.1, [Online] Available at: Accessed on 23/ 08/ 2013