Meat-eating woodpecker!

I'm no ornithologist but wondered if some of you would be able to comment on something I saw when I was walking my dogs in the woods (in East Sussex) on Monday. I saw a medium sized bird fly in to a tree with something dangling from its mouth, and managed to see it high in a tree top, identifying it as a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, trying to peck the life out of whatever it was. I had my DSLR on me and managed to get some shots and it was pretty obvious that what it was trying to eat was animal meat rather than insect or vegetable matter. How unusual is this? I note that the RSPB site says: What they eat- Insects, seeds and nuts. Whereas Wikipedia says: The food mainly consists of insects and grubs but also seeds, fruit, scraps, eggs, chicks and small rodents. I think I may have a rare picture of a flesh eating woodpecker!
  • Hi Ray, I'm no expert either but we do have a pair of G.S.Woodpeckers that visit our garden.   They will predate nests or nestboxes to take eggs, nestlings or fledglings so I'm afraid it could have been a baby bird that it had in its beak :(   We have had to add wire mesh around our bird boxes to protect the Blue Tits and Great Tits as the Woodpecker will drill the box to gain access to the chicks.     Hope this helps but I'm sure others can add more information than I can.    


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Thanks Hazel. I had never heard of this before, thanks for the confirmation. Initially I wasn't sure of what I was seeing. Regards, Ray

  • Hi Ray

    I can confirm what Hazel has said. Particularly when they are feeding hungry chicks they will take small birds from the nest. This is what one did to my nest box a few years ago. Even after I saw what was happening and tried to make some emergency protection the Woodpecker managed to take all but one of the Blue Tits inside. Quite heartbreaking at the time as they were almost on the point of fledging.



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  • Hi could you help me with a problem I have with woodpeckers please. I have been watching the blue tits over the past few days flying back and forth feeding the babies. There has been a woodpecker flying round and landing on the bird box. Mine is not a wooden one but one of those woodcrete ones I think they are called. I keep chasing it away when it comes but I wasn't too worried as did not think it would be able to do any harm. I have just chased it away again but this time it had a little baby chick in its mouth! I couldn't believe it as I didn't think it would be able to reach that far, is there anything I can do to prevent it taking anymore?  Don't know how many are in the nest but it is really sad. Thanks

  • Thanks for your reply, yes I agree  I wish they would make them with cages. It's the first time I have had blue tits nesting and I was really excited seeing them working so hard. Makes me not want to put one up next year as I don't think I could watch the poor babies being taken from the nest again

  • Evening Toffee lady,  I'm sorry to hear about the woodpecker problem and like you, I was surprised they can reach in to a woodcrete box to grab a chick as the hole is usually quite high up on those nest boxes.    We have woodpeckers in our garden and although we put mesh around the boxes and metal plates on the entrance hole it would not stop what you said happened to your nestlings;   maybe as the chicks get bigger and are almost ready to fledge, in their eagerness to see the outside world they usually climb up high towards the entrance hole and maybe just by chance as a nestling did that the woodpecker was close by and took the opportunity to grab it whilst it was near the hole.       The only thing I can suggest, and again I am not sure this could be fitted to a woodcrete box, it depends on the space around the entrance hole and whether you have a curved woodcrete box but I spotted this added protection online so you may like to take a look at THIS

    If anyone has used one of these I would be interested to know if they thought it helpful as I had considered this type of nest box guardian before I fitted the metal hole plate.   

    Hope you don't see any more predation Toffee lady and good luck with the other nestlings.   


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Thanks Hazy for posting that link to the protection. It looks good for my wooden nest box, not sure how I could attach it to the woodcrete one but will certainly look into it. Like you, I would be very interested to see if anyone else has used this.

    Thanks for everyone's help



  • I had to do a double-take on this post as I originally saw it as "Man-eating woodpecker", which would be slightly disturbing...

    "Let loose the Kraken!"