Dendrocopos leucotos 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Piciformes Picidae

Scientific Name: Dendrocopos leucotos (Bechstein, 1803)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English White-backed Woodpecker
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Taxonomic Notes:

Dendrocopos leucotos and D. owstoni (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as D. leucotos following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Denac, K.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J
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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid 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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Countries occurrence:
Albania; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Norway; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia); Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan, Province of China; Turkey; Ukraine
Belgium; Netherlands
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:40600000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1850
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 232,000-586,000 pairs, which equates to 464,000-1,170,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.35% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 1,320,000-3,350,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend Justification:  The population is suspected to be in decline. Massive declines have been observed in Scandinavia. The population is in decline locally throughout much of its range owing to intensive forestry management, removal of dead wood and introduction of conifers (del Hoyo et al. 2002). It has apparently extended its range in Slovenia and Switzerland. However the apparent expansion in Slovenia is now thought to be as a result of an increased number of observers (K. Denac in litt. 2015). The European population trend is thought to be stable in the short-term (2000-2012) (BirdLife International 2015).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1300000-3399999Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species occurs in broad-leaved forest. It uses old-growth and overmature but relatively open deciduous and mixed forest with a high proportion of dead trees and fallen timber (Winkler and Christie 2002). In central and southern Europe it is found in forests dominated by beech (Fagus spp.), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and oak (Quercus spp.) and in northern and eastern Europe forests dominated by birch (Betula spp.) and aspen (Populus tremula) (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). Courtship begins in February and egg-laying from late April to May or June. Both sexes excavate the nest in the soft wood of a dead or decaying tree, stump or branch, or in a utility pole. Clutch size generally three to five eggs (Winkler and Christie 2002). It is highly insectivorous and only occasionally takes plant matter. It specialises on wood-boring beetle larvae, particularly longhorn species (Coleoptera) but also feeds on flies, carpenter moths and carpenter ants (Gorman 2014). The species is generally resident with some local movements (Winkler and Christie 2002).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):5.2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Intense forest management, leading to a reduction of dead wood or the introduction of conifers results in a reduction in population size (Winkler and Christie 2002, Håpnes 2003), accompanied by loss of genetic diversity (Winkler and Christie 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. The species is listed as Critically Endangered on the Swedish Red List (Gärdenfors 2010) and a national Species Action Plan was published in 2005 (Mild and Stighäll 2005). Norwegian birds were translocated to Sweden (Håpnes 2003) and a captive breeding programmes set up in order to supplement the dwindling population there. Some reserves were established as was successful management to create dead wood, however the achievement of the targets planned in 2005–2008 was on average much lower than planned (Blicharska et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Everywhere, this species's survival is dependent on preservation of reasonably large areas of unmanaged deciduous forest (Winkler and Christie 2002, Håpnes 2003), including dead wood. Restoration of natural habitats is also important (Håpnes 2003).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.1. Forest - Boreal
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Invasive species control or prevention:No
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No

Bibliography [top]

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Blicharska, M., Baxter, P.W. and Mikusiñski, G. 2014. Practical implementation of species’ recovery plans – lessons from the White-backed Woodpecker Action Plan in Sweden. Ornis Fennica 91(2): 108-128.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Gärdenfors, U. 2010. Rödlistade arter i Sverige - The 2010 Red List of Swedish Species. ArtDatabanken, SLU, Uppsala.

Gorman, G. 2014. Woodpeckers of the World: the Complete Guide. Christopher Helm, London.

Hagemeijer, E.J.M. and Blair, M.J. 1997. The EBCC atlas of European breeding birds: their distribution and abundance. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.

Håpnes, A. 2003. The white-backed woodpecker, highly threatened by forestry. WWF-Norway.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Mild, K. and Stighäll, K. 2005. Action Plan for the Conservation of the Swedish Population of White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). Report 5486. In: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (ed.). Stockholm, Sweden.

Winkler, H. and Christie, D.A. 2002. White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Dendrocopos leucotos. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22727124A87318516. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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