Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis (Linnaeus, 1758) G. GREWO 8560
Family: Piciformes > Picidae

Green Woodpecker, Edmund Fellowes

The Green Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species found in the UK. Its loud laughing call is behind the affectionate folk name of ‘yaffle’.

Green Woodpecker diet consists primarily of ants, and individuals may be seen feeding from an ant nest located in the short turf of a garden lawn or woodland ride. Both sexes have green plumage with a yellow rump and red cap; the red centre to the black ‘moustache’ distinguishes the male birds from females, which lack this feature.

Green Woodpeckers can be found across much of Britain, though favouring lowland habitats, but are absent from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, together with much of the north-west of Scotland and the Scottish islands.

Exploring the trends for Green Woodpecker

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Green Woodpecker population is changing.

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Green Woodpecker identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Green Woodpecker, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Flight call

Alarm call



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Green Woodpecker populations rose steadily in Britain from 1966 until around 2008, except for a period of stability or shallow decline centred around 1980. There was considerable range expansion in central and eastern Scotland between the 1968-72 and 1988-91 atlas periods. Results from the 2007-11 Atlas indicated that expansion was continuing across England and Scotland, but not in Wales, where major retraction from some western regions was detected in 2008-11 (Balmer et al. 2013). Similarly, the BBS map of change in relative density between 1994-96 and 2007-09 indicated that there had been strong contrast between decreases in southwestern England and South Wales and increase elsewhere, especially in southeastern England. However, BBS trends suggest more recent shallow declines across England. There has been an increase across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>). Following a review of its status in Europe, the species was moved from amber to the UK green list in 2015 (Eaton et al. 2015).

Exploring the trends for Green Woodpecker

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Green Woodpecker population is changing.

trends explorer


Green Woodpeckers are distributed fairly continuously across southern England but become patchy in west Wales, northern England and in south-central Scotland. They are absent from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and from Ireland.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Breeding Season Habitats

Relative frequency by habitat

Relative occurrence in different habitat types during the breeding season.

>Bar of similar size indicate the species is equally likely to be recorded in those habitats


Overall, the change in breeding range size is relatively small, but this conceals a clear east–west divide in trends, with declining tetrad occupancy in Wales and southwest England contrasting strongly with increasing tetrad occupancy in central and eastern England.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Green Woodpeckers are widely recorded throughout the year, especially in spring when highly vocal, and post-breeding.

Weekly occurence of Green Woodpecker from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Green Woodpecker, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Green Woodpecker

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Green Woodpecker population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Green Woodpecker

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Green Woodpecker population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Lasair-choille
Welsh: Cnocell Werdd
Catalan: picot verd comú
Czech: žluna zelená
Danish: Grønspætte
Dutch: Groene Specht
Estonian: roherähn e. meltsas
Finnish: vihertikka
French: Pic vert
German: Grünspecht
Hungarian: zöld küllo
Icelandic: Grænspæta
Irish: Cnagaire Glas
Italian: Picchio verde
Latvian: zala dzilna
Lithuanian: žalioji meleta
Norwegian: Grønnspett
Polish: dzieciol zielony
Portuguese: peto-real
Slovak: žlna zelená
Slovenian: zelena žolna
Spanish: Pito real euroasiático
Swedish: gröngöling
Folkname: Yaffle, Pick-a-Tree, Rainfowl


Interpretation and scientific publications about Green Woodpecker from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

There is little evidence available regarding the demographic or ecological causes of population increase in this species.

Further information on causes of change

No information on demographic trends for this species is available. The ecological factors underlying the increase in population size are not yet known but, given the species' susceptibility to cold weather, it may be related to climate change. Smith (2007) found that Green Woodpeckers were not limited by nest-sites in his study woods in southern England and linked the upward trend in numbers to the availability of food outside the woods and higher survival due to a series of mild winters.

Information about conservation actions

This species has been increasing until recently so is not a species of conservation concern and conservation actions are not currently required in most areas of the UK. However, the recent slight decline and losses in western regions do raise potential concerns.

A radiotracking study following a breeding pair in Dorset for over a month found that foraging was, unsurprisingly, strongly influenced by the abundance of ants (especially Lasius flavius), which were most abundant in areas of short grass with high plant richness such as sheep grazed land and garden lawns; arable and cattle grazed fields were avoided by the birds (Alder & Marsden 2010). Hence provision of similar natural or semi-natural grassland habitats may be important, in particular in the areas where this species is declining.

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