Green Woodpeckers In Friars Cliff

 In Birds, Environment

When Ann and I moved here, to Friars Cliff, in 2012, a green woodpecker popped into our garden every few days. It was like a ray of sunshine as this gaudy bird used our lawn as a catwalk. In case you have never seen one, it’s the closest bird Britain has to a parrot. It’s about a foot long, with various green feathers, a yellow rump and red head. Seeing the green woodpeckers in Friars Cliff was a real joy.


You noted the past tense. We last saw the birds in spring 2019 but did not realise this until recently. This is how wildlife diversity reduces, one creature at a time and not noted until too late. Why and where has it gone?

Woodpecker lawns

A number of things might be responsible. This bird uses our lawns in order to find ants, seemingly preferring yellow ants. These live in pockets in light soil such as we have in Friars Cliff. The bird drills into the turf with its beak and then scours the nest with its long sticky tongue. This tongue is 4 inches (10cm) long and withdrawn, curls inside its head. It will feed for many minutes in one hole and may return over days. If the lawn is one of those pristine, pampered, perfect lawns of the English garden then there will be no ants. They cannot survive if fertilizers, chemicals or herbicides are applied to the lawn.


Our street lost a number of trees in early 2019 so is this the reason? This bird rarely pecks at wood in trees like other woodpeckers. But, it does prefer to have trees close by into which to retreat when threatened. Dogs, cats and humans are all a threat.

Green woodpeckers in Friars Cliff

It’s a fact that if we humans vacated Friars Cliff, the green woodpeckers would soon be back. As it is, we fell trees, sterilize lawns, pave over grass and impose ourselves on wildlife in many ways. That will include cars, dogs, cats, mowing, noise and even considering insects, like ants, as a nuisance. When we stop the green woodpecker living its simple life, we become the real losers.

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