Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)


French: Pic noir German: Schwarzspecht Spanish: Picamaderos negro

Picus martius


, 1758,

Europe = Sweden


Race khamensis, although genetically distinct#R, is morphologically similar to nominate, although blacker and appearing more glossy. Size varies clinally, decreasing from N to S and, in Asia, from E to W; birds from S Europe E to Transcaucasia sometimes separated as race pinetorum (slightly smaller than N breeders) and those from E Asia as reichenowi (on average larger than W Asian populations), but much overlap in measurements, and racial separation not warranted. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. m. martius (Linnaeus, 1758) – Europe from Spain, France and Scandinavia (N to Arctic Circle) S to Balkans and N Turkey, and E in broad belt across Asian taiga (S to Altai Mts, N Mongolia) to Kamchatka, Sakhalin and Japan (Hokkaido, extreme N Honshu), NE China and Korea; also Caucasus and N Iran.
  • D. m. khamensis (Buturlin, 1908) – SC China (Qinghai and E Tibet to NW Yunnan).
  • Descriptive notes

    45–55 cm; 250–370 g. Very large. Male has red central forehead to hindcrown, a few grey feather bases sometimes showing through; rest of plumage black, head and... read more


    Loud “krry-krry-krry” in flight, “ke-yaa” on landing and when perched;... read more


    All types of mature forest, so long as not extremely dense and gloomy; also forest edge. Spruce (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly ants (Camponotus, Formica, Lasius) and their brood; at least locally, may switch from Camponotus... read more


    Laying mid-Mar to mid-May, but sexual activities may begin in mid-Jan; long period of pair-formation, during which final location of nest... read more


    Resident in most areas, and even N populations only partially migratory; juvenile dispersal more... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common in some W parts of range, but more uncommon in E. Estimated population of c. 316,000 pairs in European Russia and c. 233,000 pairs in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 3 April 2020).