Syrian Woodpecker [Dendrocopos Syriacus]

In this video produced by we learn about the Syrian woodpecker.


Quick facts:

Lifespan: 11 years (maximum)

Average size: 23 cm (9 in)

Average weight: 77 g (2.7 oz)

Family: Picidae

Description: The Syrian woodpecker is a beautiful bird with buff underparts and striking black and white upperparts. It has rusty-red coverts beneath the tale. Males bear a striking crimson spot on the nape. The long, pointy bill is slate black, and the legs and feet are greyish. They have small, beady eyes.

Sounds & vocals: The drumming rattle produced by the Syrian woodpecker can be heard from miles away. The sound is made by rapid blows of its strong bill on a trunk or branch. They also produce sharp, quit-quit sounds.

Distribution & Habitat: This woodpecker is native to Europe and the Middle East. Their breeding range spans from south-eastern and north-western Europe toward Iran. They inhabit open woodlands, scrublands, parks, vineyards, gardens, and croplands with a good tree cover.

Diet: They mainly eat wood-boring insects such as moth and beetle larvae. They also feed on ants, bees, and spiders. When invertebrates are scarce, they eat seeds, nuts, and berries. They drill into the bark with their sharp bills and extract prey with their long, sticky tongues.

Reproduction: Syrian woodpeckers nest in old, decaying trees. They excavate nesting holes by boring into the soft bark, which leads downwards into a small chamber. They use wood chips to line the inside of the nest. Females lay up to eleven eggs. The short incubation period lasts ten days on average. Nestlings fledge at around 22 days but remain dependent on their parents for another two weeks.

Conservation: These birds are fairly widespread throughout their range, which has seen an expansion in recent years, possibly brought on by agricultural activities. They are listed as least concern by the IUCN.

Status in Lebanon

The Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopus syriacus was considered extirpated in Lebanon by Tohmé & Neuschwander (1974) but breeding was later confirmed in 1995 at Qammouha and Fneideq (Ramadan-Jaradi & Ramadan-Jaradi 1997). Between 1996 and 2005, this species was found nesting in hills at Hermon, above Aammiq and at Qaraoun (Ramadan-Jaradi & Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). Dispersing individuals were recorded at Aammiq and the Litani River Valley. Sighted in Lebanon at Aammiq, Arz el Shouf, Bcharri, Beirut, above Deir el Ahmar, Houah, Jabal Rihane, Kousba, Litani Valley, Qammouha and Tanayel.

During 2008-2017, the Syrian Woodpecker showed a tangible decline in its numbers through drop of frequency of appearance in its known habitats, mainly on the eastern slopes of Mount Lebanon, by 17.8% and the species became classified Near Threatened on the National Red List (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in prep.). Among the reasons for its decline, illegal hunting, persecution despite its zero impact on bees, human disturbance and wood cutting are the main ones. Very recently, taking chicks from nests to sell them in pet shops is an additional reason behind the species recent rarefication.

In 2017 the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon decided to promote the conservation of the Syrian Woodpecker in Lebanon starting with an unmatched initiative in the country, consisting of releasing a male and two females woodpeckers in a huge Hima habitat where their protection from hunters and persecutors is secured.

Red List Category

Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable hence it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population size: 600000-1499999
Population trend: Stable
Extent of occurrence (breeding/resident): 8,290,000 km2
Country endemic: No

Realm – Palearctic
IUCN Ecosystem — Terrestrial biome

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