Woodpeckers at Ria de Alvor- part 2
The two other species are the « black and white » woodpeckers, the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dryobates minor).
The Great Spotted Woodpecker has a broad distribution, it is present from Europe to Japan. The subspecies present in Iberia is darker than the birds in the rest of Europe but the birds in the south of the peninsula show characteristics similar to the Maroccan birds. In Portugal, it is resident and common, more frequent along the coast. However, it is absent from the more open areas of the Alentejo. It is present in all types of wooden habitats, even the dense ones and parks and gardens. This species prefers mixed forests and « montados ». It can also be found in pinewoods but prefers burned areas as it can find more food, like the insects feeding on the dead wood, and places to nest. The first winter after the fire, these areas are used for communication and preening. This species of woodpecker is a bioindicator of the presence of dead wood. It usually avoids eucalyptus plantations. It is more abundant in the mature forest of the western half of the country like the wooden areas of the Minho, Beira Alta, Beira Litoral, the “montados” in Ribatejo, the valley of Sado and the ravines of the Alentejo coast and Algarve hills. The nest is a cavity excavated by the bird in old or sick trees, but also in other structures like telephone poles. It can be found from sea level to 2000m altitude in the Pyrenees. In Spain, the population may have increased from the 1990’s thanks to the growth of the culture of Poplars and other species of trees. This has lead to an expansion of the distribution area and put in contact isolated populations. The Great Spotted Woodpecker only shows small seasonal erratic movements. In the Algarve, it is common and widespread but more common in the Western part.
At Ria de Alvor, the species was mostly seen in July and August until the end of the 1990’s. There, there was a decrease in the number of sightings before it increased again and the species is now recorded all year round. It was caught at Cruzinha for the first time in 2007 (like the Iberian Green Woodpecker). Then, the second one caught was only in 2016 and then 2017 and 2020, but with 2 birds each time. In total, 6 birds were caught and ringed at Cruzinha, 5 of them during the last 5 years.
The last species is the smallest of all, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It is present in all Europe and Asia until the Pacific coast and in North Africa. Its distribition is fragmented in Iberia and there is still much to learn about it. It is present from sea level up to 1,300m altitude in the Sierre de Gredos in Spain but it usually nests below 800 m. In Portugal, it is an uncommon resident species with a widespread but discontinuous distribution. It is rare north of the Douro and almost absent along the coast north of the Tagus. The highest densities are found in the « montados », south of the Tagus, the Sado valley and the ravines of the Alentejo coast and Algarve hills. It is absent from Madeira and the Azores. It prefers dense « montados » with Cork Oak and Holm Oak and old or dead trees where it can dig a hole to nest. It usually avoids eucalyptus and pinewoods. There are no differences between the winter and spring distribution and there is also little differences in terms of habitat selection. The breeding period starts as soon as January or February and the post-juvenile dispersion is more important for males than females with some birds going up to 60 km away from their nesting site between August and November.
At Ria de Alvor, it was seen for the first time in 2004 and has been annual since. The first bird ringed at Cruzinha was also in 2004 and then in 2007 and it has been almost annual since, with several years with 2 different birds. In total, 10 birds have been caught and ringed at Cruzinha.