The lesser spotted woodpecker has had a long association with traditional orchards. Spring is the best time of year to catch sight of these rare little birds. Listen out for their distinctive drumming in the orchards and woodlands – a much slower and weaker rhythm than that of the great spotted woodpecker.
The lesser spotted is rarest of the three species of woodpecker regularly breeding in Britain. In the last decade, it has suffered an alarming population decline and is now a red-listed species meaning it is of conservation concern.
The lesser spotted is the smallest of the woodpeckers, similar in size to the house sparrow. It nests on the main trunk in dead or dying wood often near the top of the tree away from predators. The majority of nest holes face in a north-easterly direction.
During the months of March to June, woodpeckers are active around orchards and woodlands, pairing up for the breeding season, searching out new nest sites or looking after their young. They build new nests every year.
There are now less than 1,500 breeding pairs in the UK. Despite a growing body of research, its decline is not well understood. However, experts believe that changes in the way our woodlands are managed and, in particular, the removal of dead and decaying trees is thought to be having an impact on their numbers. Protecting traditional orchards and the small diameter dead and decaying wood that is suitable for foraging is therefore vitally important.
Adding the lesser spotted woodpecker to the Rare Birds Breeding Panel means it is now closely monitored, which hopefully will prevent it disappearing altogether. All breeding records of the lesser spotted woodpecker in Herefordshire will now be submitted to the RBBP for inclusion into the national database.