In Pursuit of a New Species: Black Woodpecker

In a previous blog I described myself as a ‘birder’ and not a ‘twitcher’ A ‘twitcher’ you may recall is someone who races around the country frantically collecting rare birds for their lists and a ‘birder’ on the other hand is more of a local hunter for the territory that they find themselves in. This species sort of puts me in the middle of the two. On the one hand I am extremely excited by the prospect of seeing this bird (manic excitement) and at the moment I am frantically trying to find out about the bird in order to enhance my chances of seeing it. However, it is local enough, It’s reported current sighting’s are just a bit too far to be reached by walking or cycle, and a car is required to reach them taking under 35 minutes from Dalyan, so in my eye within local hunter territory and not the manic cross country trek that a ‘twitcher’ would take.


I had not seen or heard of any reports of the Black Woodpecker in this region over the previous twenty years of visiting and had not considered it as a possibility. The first tentative mention of this bird been a possibility, arose one evening a couple of years ago, whilst waiting to return to the England. Our driver arrived half an hour early and as not everyone was ready I invited him to have a tea and nibbles and a chance to practice my Turkish. He was a local man from near Eskiköy so I soon got him onto bird watching as I use Eskiköy as my local patch so to speak. He seemed genuinely interested, although he could have been just a very kind man! As my knowledge of the Turkish names for bird species is poor I resorted to using the Collins Bird Guide to point out birds I had seen in the area making him aware of the White Throated Kingfishers. The word ‘Var’ in Turkish means ‘There is’ and the word “Yok’ means ‘there is not’. Our man would look through the book at pages I selected and he would systematically point to the different birds saying ‘Var ‘ or ‘Yok” indicating the birds he knew of or had seen in the area. On the woodpecker page he pointed to almost all the woodpeckers saying ‘Var’ including the Black Woodpecker. As I was a bit dubious I asked him specifically if he had seen this bird, ‘Var’ he said again in an enthusiastic tone and indicated its size with his hands and also saying ‘Siyah’ which means black. As you can imagine I was pretty excited about this and got out a local map and he showed me its location, Kavakarasi forest.


Well that was it until earlier this year when a fellow birder Rob Smallwood reported it flying across the road one evening very near to the site first indicated by our man from Eskiköy. The bird was seen flying across the Köycegiz/Eskiköy road from Kavakarasi Forest to the pinewoods on the other side.

The forest at Kavakarasi provides pleasant walking and birding, opening out into the fields next to the lake so a good mixture of habitats. I haven’t as yet gone into the pinewoods to the east of the Köycegiz/Eskiköy road. below route to Kavakarasi forest. Later in the year I will be able to give more detailed directions.

Kavakarasi Forest Route

In his book, ‘Identifying Birds by Behavior’ Dominic Couzens describes the Black Woodpecker as crow sized and that it’s flight pattern is not the undulating up and down of other woodpeckers but straight on and similar to a jay with one or two wing bursts. It is similar to a green Woodpecker in that it feeds on ants and can often be seen on the ground and at rotten tree stumps. They prefer tall extensive forest with clearings, which would be in keeping with Kavakarasi forest. Another interesting observation is that it makes rectangular holes, (long in the vertical axis) when searching for deeply buried insects so it is worth looking out for these. It spends hours hacking at rotten stumps where it makes large craters and he suggests looking out for bark debris on the floor below. He also says Black Woodpeckers can be found in large stands of tall, mature pines and requires open ground to feed on.

‘Birds of the Western Palearctic’ suggest that in Turkey it is a very rare breeder in forests of the north and Marmara coastal region. In Turkey 50–500 pairs. [Update: 500–1500 pairs (2001) stable (BirdLife International 2004). The Black Woodpecker is normally solitary outside the breeding season, ♂ and ♀ in separate territories or parts of a territory. It favours areas with large trees and usually nests in a tree hole 6-9 meters from the ground. It suggest that the Black Woodpecker displays extreme wariness and does not favour association with man, nor easy tolerance of disturbance. The nest is excavated hole, with oval entrance. Adults remain all year in neighbourhood of their territory.


‘Birds of the Western Palearctic’ suggest that it is vocal throughout the year and when I visited the forest in late June 2015 I arrived to some strange calls, although Green Woodpeckers where in the area, these seemed different, when I looked up to two large black bird silhouettes (so maybe not black) were flying away and I did not hear the calls again. Both sexes share similar call repertoires.


Rob Smallwood’s observation in June 2015 was of a bird flying away from the Kavakarasi forest, across the open ground, over the road and into the Pine Woods behind. It would be possible then that it only occasional enters the Kavakarasi forest and frequents the Pinewoods rather than the Kavakarasi forest itself.

Since the bird is wary of disturbance and sightings may be rare, reliance on hearing its call, which is distinctive, may be necessary in the first instance. Perhaps the best indication of its presence to visiting birders would be its calls and any reports of such can help track down the bird, establishing if it is present in the area or not.

The following recordings may help fellow birders when visiting Kavakarasi forest region.

These recordings are from

Xeno-canto, XC is a website for sharing recordings of sounds of wild birds from all across the world.


Black Woodpecker Call page link below:


Heres hoping others have luck in hearing or seeing this bird.


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4 Responses to In Pursuit of a New Species: Black Woodpecker

  1. Victor Marshall says:

    Seen flying over Yavus Hotel Dalyan. Spur winged Lapwing & Levant Sparrowhawk. Yellow Wagtails in the gardens of villas next door. All great to see and add to our list.

    • Hello Victor thanks for the update, Hundreds of yellow wagtails roosting in the reed bed next to the lake the other night and the influx of european kingfishers is continuing ..should peak in October

      • Victor Marshall says:

        We have seen more and more wagtails around. Today we went up to the mountains above Seki and had a great day.

  2. I also went up the mountains near Seki at Göğü-Beli Geçidi and had a great day ..see tweets from Dalyan on and photos at

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