Book review: The Green Woodpecker - A Natural and Cultural History of Picus viridis

The green woodpecker is one of those birds that never fails to fascinate.

Plaudits, therefore to Gerard Gorman, for his superbly readable book which, while being authoritative, also captures the special magic of the species.

His exploration of the anatomy, behaviour, breeding, diet of the 'greenie' is absorbing. Perhaps even more so is his wide-reaching survey of its place in history, art, literature, folklore and superstition.

In England, there are more than 30 colloquial names for the bird including 'yaffingale' and 'hewhole'. In some parts of France, it is known as pleu-pleu (rain-rain) because its call is thought to be an omen of approaching wet weather.

There is a thoroughly researched and very interesting section on the distribution of Picus viridis, revealing population trends in individual countries including Great Britain where the current status is thought to be about 52,000 pairs - a it

Because of its reluctance to fly over open water, it is not often recorded as occurring in many islands and, despite being quite common in southern England and France, it does not breed in the Channel Islands. Nor are there any records since the 19th Century of any presence, even as a vagrant, in Ireland.

The Green Woodpecker - A Natural and Cultural History of Picus viridis is extensively illustrated with captivating photographs and artwork which support Gorman’s narrative which is always authoritative, entertaining and fast-paced.

A word, too, for the very high print and production standards.

Published in paperback at £24.99 by Pelagic Publishing, this splendid work is available wherever books are sold.