Eurasian three-toed woodpecker

The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) is a medium-sized woodpecker that is found from northern Europe across northern Asia to Japan.

Eurasian three-toed woodpecker
Three-toed Woodpecker - Finlandia 0005 (3).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Picoides
P. tridactylus
Binomial name
Picoides tridactylus
(Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus distribution in Eurasia map.png
Eurasian three-toed woodpecker range.[2][n 1]
(Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus distribution in Europe map.png
The range in Europe.[2][n 1]
  • Picus tridactylus Linnaeus, 1758


The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker was formally described in 1758 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae. He coined the binomial name Picus tridactylus.[3] The type locality is Sweden.[4] The specific epithet is from the Ancient Greek tridaktulos meaning "three-toed" (tri- is "three-" and daktulos is toe).[5] The species is now placed in the genus Picoides that was introduced by the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède in 1799.[6][7] The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker was formerly considered conspecific with the American three-toed woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis).[8]

Eight subspecies are recognised:[7]

  • P. t. tridactylus (Linnaeus, 1758) – northern Europe to the southern Ural Mountains and to south-eastern Siberia and north-eastern China
  • P. t. alpinus Brehm, CL, 1831 – central and south-eastern Europe to western Ukraine and Romania
  • P. t. crissoleucus (Reichenbach, 1854) – northern Ural Mountains to eastern Siberia
  • P. t. albidior Stejneger, 1885 – eastern Siberia and Kamchatka Peninsula
  • P. t. tianschanicus Buturlin, 1907 – eastern Kazakhstan and western China
  • P. t. kurodai Yamashina, 1930 – north-eastern China and North Korea
  • P. t. inouyei Yamashina, 1943 – Japan (Hokkaido)
  • P. t. funebris Verreaux, J, 1871 – central China

The subspecies P. t. funebris is sometimes treated as a separate species, the dark-bodied woodpecker.[9]


Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker is 21–22 cm (8.3–8.7 in) in length, just a little smaller than the great spotted woodpecker. The adult has black and white plumage except for the yellow crown of the male. Neither sex has any red feathers. It has black wings and rump, and white from the throat to the belly; the flanks are white with black bars. The back is white with black bars, and the tail is black with the white outer feathers barred with black. Juveniles of both sexes have a yellow crown.[10]

The voice call of the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker is a kik or chik

The breeding habitat is coniferous forests across the Palearctic from Norway to Korea. There are also populations in the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains.

Three-toed woodpeckers nest in a cavity in a dead conifer or sometimes a live tree or pole. The pair excavates a new nest each year.

This bird is normally a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south and birds at high elevations may move to lower levels in winter.

Three-toed woodpeckers forage on conifers in search of wood-boring beetle larvae or other insects. They may also eat fruit and tree sap.

These birds often move into areas with large numbers of insect-infested trees, often following a forest fire or flooding.


  1. ^ a b IUCN (the source of spatial data of ranges in these maps) does not recognize P. (tridactylus) dorsalis as separate species.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Picoides tridactylus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22727137A87304270. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22727137A87304270.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b BirdLife International and NatureServe (2014) Bird Species Distribution Maps of the World. 2014. Picoides tridactylus. In: IUCN 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". Archived from the original on 2014-06-27. Retrieved 2014-04-23.. Downloaded on 26 May 2015.
  3. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 114.
  4. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1948). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 6. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 215.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 390. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ Lacépède, Bernard Germain de (1799). "Tableau des sous-classes, divisions, sous-division, ordres et genres des oiseux". Discours d'ouverture et de clôture du cours d'histoire naturelle (in French). Paris: Plassan. p. 7. Page numbering starts at one for each of the three sections.
  7. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2020). "Woodpeckers". IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  8. ^ Zink, Robert M.; Rohwer, Sievert; Andreev, Alexander V.; Dittman, Donna (July 1995). "Trans-Beringia comparisons of mitochondrial DNA differentiation in birds" (PDF). Condor. 97 (3): 639–649. doi:10.2307/1369173. JSTOR 1369173.
  9. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Picoides funebris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22727144A94942125. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22727144A94942125.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  10. ^ Cramp 1985, pp. 913–914.


  • Cramp, Stanley, ed. (1985). "Picoides tridactylus Three-toed woodpecker". Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. IV: Terns to Woodpeckers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 913–923. ISBN 978-0-19-857507-8.

Further readingEdit

  • Gorman, Gerard (2004): Woodpeckers of Europe: A Study of the European Picidae. Bruce Coleman, UK. ISBN 1-872842-05-4.
  • Fayt, Philippe; Machmer, Marlene M.; Steeger, Christoph (2005). "Regulation of spruce bark beetles by woodpeckers — a literature review". Forest Ecology and Management. 206 (1–3): 1–14. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2004.10.054.

External linksEdit