Picus sharpie. / P. JONES

Iberian green woodpecker

The Andalucía Bird Society recommends looking out for the Picus sharpie this month


Until relatively recently the Iberian Green Woodpecker, Picus sharpie, was considered conspecific with P. viridis and P. vaillantii, but differs in many aspects of plumage detail and is significantly different in vocal patterns. The distribution is limited to Iberia, the Pyrenees and the extremities of Southern France, occurring irregularly from Pyrénées-Atlantiques to Hérault.

These birds inhabit dry open woodland and occur in both deciduous and mixed woodlands, orchards and farmland, parks and gardens. They can be found in lowlands, hills and mountains up to an altitude of 3,000 metres. They are mostly resident but there are local movements outside of the breeding season with both juvenile and altitudinal dispersal.

I am fortunate to have this woodpecker as a garden bird as they can be elusive to observe and are often only made obvious by their distinctive yaffling call. The song is mostly heard during December through January as pairs reaffirm their bonds and thereafter their distinctive laughing song continues throughout the breeding season. Local birds nest from the end of March until June and both the male and female share incubation and feeding the young.

Their diet mainly consists of terrestrial ants along with some small invertebrates. Occasionally they feed on arboreal insects and during the autumn they love to visit orchards for fruit and in particular the persimmon (Diospyros kaki) which is attractive to both Iberian Green and Great-spotted woodpeckers.

Although quite common locally, its conservation status is listed as 'near threatened'. The population has been estimated to have decreased by 30% and it is considered vulnerable at a regional level. Further monitoring and research is needed.