Gerard Gorman
Publisher:  Reaktion Books, London
Page Count:  180
ISBN Number:  9781780238296

This monograph is one of a remarkable series of animal monographs published by Reaktion Books.

Gerard Gorman has written a number of books about woodpeckers, his love of these birds having started about 30 years ago. Already interested in birds, he reports walking in woodland in Budapest and coming across a Black Woodpecker chiselling out its hole. He was fascinated and visited the nest through to fledging of the young.

In this book Gerard Gorman covers the whole woodpecker group, including Wrynecks, Piculets and True Woodpeckers, looking at their natural and cultural history as well as their fascination for humans. In an initial chapter, he looks at the range of types of woodpeckers, their origin from the fossil record and their geographical spread.

Further chapters look at woodpecker behaviour, mythology and even the magical abilities that have been associated with them over the millennia. In the chapter entitled ‘The Carpenter’, the author looks at their amazing ability to excavate holes in timber for feeding and breeding, illustrating his text with a wide range of related stories and anecdotes.

In the chapter ‘Woodpeckers Today and Tomorrow’, he examines the association of Woodpeckers with man, from the loss of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, cartoon characters such as Woody Woodpecker, and the problems presented to NASA. Did you know that the space shuttle Discovery had to have more than 200 holes repaired on it, caused by pecking Northern Flickers!

One of the last chapters is the ‘Timeline of the Woodpecker’, summarising the early evidence of woodpeckers and their appearance in art and literature.

A fascinating read.

Derek Toomer