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Great spotted woodpecker with unusual colouring in Cheshire

02/01/2010 06:54:02
birds/nov_2009/great_woodpecker_yellow_blamire

Great spotted woodpecker with yellow vents. Image courtesy of Sheila Blamire.

Greater spotted woodppecker with yellow vents.

This bird with unusual colouring was photographed by Sheila Bamire in Cheshire, England, in December 2009.

Sheila says "I took this photo of a female 'yellow-vented' Great Spotted Woodpecker in the back garden on 7 Dec 2009 - it hung around for a few days feeding on the peanut feeders. Two 'normal' female Great Spotted  woodpeckers were in the garden at the same time. The 'normal' woodpeckers were antagonistic to each other, but left the yellow-vented bird alone.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers breed locally and produced at least 2 female young. The 'normal' birds are probably related to each other.

We like the upturned hanging basket which Sheila says keeps the jackdaws away.

Wildlife Extra reported a similar bird in Yorkshire 2 years ago, (Click here), and there was some debate about what caused the unusual colouring.

Mike Toms, of the British trust for Ornithology, has pointed out that a similar bird was documented in Cambridgeshire in 2006. The BTO believe that the bird was exhibiting xanthochroism.

Xanthochroism
Birds can show this condition in one of two ways: either there is an excess of yellow in the plumage or the yellow replaces another colour (in this instance the red). The condition has been reported in a number of species, including other species of woodpecker (in North America), and in many instances the colour replaced is red.

Click here to see our gallery of albino and leucistic animals and birds.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Yellow woodpecker oxon June 2010

We were interested in your article on xanthochroism in woodpeckers. We have just watched what appeared to be a bright yellow black and red woodpecker on old apple trees in a neighbour's garden for 10 minutes or so. It was definitely not a green woodpecker; not big enough, too much black. If it was xanthochroism, it was the normally White areas that were affected, not the red ones. The bird had a very bright red flash on its head and under its tail. Any thought? Are we hallucinating?

Posted by: Marianne puxley | 06 Jun 2010 09:27:50

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