White-backed Woodpecker in the Croatian Karst Mountains

Soft contact calls reveal a woodpecker nearby. A view through binoculars: clearly a White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). The white ribbons on the folded wings can be seen very well. He looks more like a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor). Only bigger. A short “giggle”. I realize that there are 2 birds. One is only a bit disheveled. Probably a juvenile bird. The other probably one of the parents. The two woodpeckers quickly disappear up the slope. I decide to go afterwards. After a good 30 meters, I wait. I play the contact calls from a tape. Also the typical long-lasting drumming is played to lure the woodpecker. But sorry, no feedback. It makes no sense to pursue the White-backed Woodpecker through the Croatian Karst.The slope looks very open right away. However, there is a lot of deadwood in the steep slope. In between are large limestone rock blocks, which also hinder a speedy advance. After all, a good sighting which really impressed me.

We had planned a mountain hike through the upper parts of the Paklenica National Park. Walking already for half a day through a very pretty mixed deciduous forest I was quite surprised at how pristine and vast these woods actually in the Croatian Karst Mountains were. No car or train could be heard. It was very peaceful in the area. Many brilliant limestone specialized flowers in almost full bloom created the impression of a flower carpet.

At home I checked literature and found out, how common the White-backed Woodpecker is regarded for Croatia. The White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) or planinski djetlić in Croatian is categorized as breeding species and a regular bird. This means, it is recorded in at least 7 years out of 10 between 2002 and 2012,

In a scientific study conducted from 2004 to 2007 in five protected areas of the Dinaric Mountains high-karst zone revealed the White-backed Woodpecker the dominant Woodpecker of the mature oak forest slopes. The study areas were predominantly covered with forests, which

could be grouped in tree main forest habitat types: broadleaved deciduous forests, mixed fir-beech forests, and coniferous forests. Broadleaved deciduous beech forests are developed as montane beech forests on lower mountain slopes at elevations between 400 and 800 m a.s.l., and as sub-alpine beech forests at elevations above 1100 m a.s.l. Thermopile

beech forests are developed on mountain slopes near the Adriatic Sea. Mixed fir-beech forests are developed mainly on elevations between 800 and 1200 m a.s.l., which was the relevant habitat around the observation site. This is the most widespread forest habitat in the research areas which consisted of the Plitvice Lakes, North Velebit, and Paklenica National Parks, Risnjak and the Velebit Nature Park

White-backed Woodpeckers (Dendrocopus leucotos) are always high on WP-birdwatcher´s lists. This is already the 2nd observation of White-backed Woodpeckers on the Balkan. This was inside the Strandzha Nature Park, in the Silkosia Nature Reserve in Bulgaria. This is a reserve up in the hills, just 15 km as the crow flies to the Turkish border.

At that time, it was the subspecies lilfordi which could be seen. Now it is the nominate subspecies, which could be observed already in the Carpathians of Slovakia. It is worthnoting that, among the woodpeckers, we were lucky that day only with one species: the White-backed Woodpeckers. Other Woodpeckers which are principally possible were Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus), the very impressive Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major). The Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius) might occur further down on mountain slopes near the Adriatic Sea. But we did not see anybody.

The study mentioned above found seven species of woodpeckers in the study areas: the Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted, White-backed, Three-toed, Black, Grey-headed and Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).Three-toed Woodpecker was only recorded in the Paklenica National Park, in the area where all counting points were situated in a zone of thermopile montane beech forest. The other five species were recorded in all studied areas.

Even though the Great Spotted Woodpecker was the most frequent species overall, it was less frequent than the White-backed in beech forests. The abundance of the White-backed Woodpecker in the study areas of in total 117 territories was quite high. The White-backed Woodpecker could be detected in 31 of the 117 counting stations. A quarter is a high percentage. A birdwatcher from Middle Europe should think twice not to look in the in the Croatian Karst Mountains if he needs the bird on his list.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to remote places like this one to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. Beside the image above you can find a nice selection of birds in the gallery or in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give a message, if Bird-Lens could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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