Characteristics of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor on irruptive autumn movement along the coast of southern Norway

How to Cite

Blatti, E., López, A., & Lislevand, T. (2016). Characteristics of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor on irruptive autumn movement along the coast of southern Norway. Ornis Norvegica, 39, 1-5.


The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor is a facultative autumn migrant in Fennoscandia, but there is little published information about its migratory ecology. Analysing data from 26 years (1990–2015) of trapping at Lista Bird Observatory, southern Norway, we found that autumn migration varied in relation to sex and age in this species. Annual numbers of trapped birds fluctuated between 0 and 19 but there was no significant temporal trend in the numbers of birds trapped. However, the numbers were positively correlated with similar data from Falsterbo Bird Observatory in southern Sweden. Thus, the annual fluctuation of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Lista probably reflects the situation across larger parts of the southern Scandinavian Peninsula. In total, 96% of the birds trapped at Lista (n = 136) were in their first calendar year, showing clear evidence for differential migration in the species. There was no sex bias in the material but the median arrival date was about 14 days earlier in males than in females. Wing length increased over the season in both sexes, although the explanatory value of this seasonal progression was low. Also, body mass was higher in males than in females and increased with date of trapping when body size (wing length) was controlled for. Our findings comply with the hypothesis that annual fluctuation in the number of migrating Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers is caused by varying breeding success in the source population(s), mediated by intra-specific competition (the competitive release hypothesis).


Alerstam, T. 1990. Bird Migration. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Baker, K. 1993. Identification guide to European non-passerines. BTO guide 24. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

Berthold, P. & Terrill, S.B. 1991. Recent advances in studies of bird migration. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 22: 357–378.

Chapman, B.B., Brönmark, C., Nilsson, J.-Å. & Hansson, L.-A. 2011. The ecology and evolution of partial migration. Oikos 120: 1764–1775.

Cramp, S. (ed.) 1985. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Edvardsen, E., Røer, J.E., Solvang, R., Ergon, T., Rafoss, T. & Klaveness, G. 2004. Bestandsovervåking ved standardisert fangst og ringmerking ved fuglestasjonene. NOF rapportserie, rapport nr. 3–2004. Norsk Ornitologisk Forening, Trondheim. (In Norwegian)

Eriksson, K. 1971. Irruption and wintering ecology of the Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. Ornis Fennica 48: 69–76.

Francis, C.M. & Cooke, F. 1986. Differential timing of spring migration in wood warblers (Parulinae). Auk 103: 548–556.

Gauthreaux, S.A. Jr. 1982. The ecology and evolution of avian migration systems. Pp. 93-168 in: Farner, D.S., King, J.R. & Parkes, K.C. (eds.). Avian Biology, Vol. 6. Academic Press, London.

Gohli, J., Røer, J.E., Selås, V., Stenberg, I. & Lislevand, T. 2011. Migrating Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor along the coast of southern Norway: where do they come from? Ornis Fennica 88: 121–128.

Greenwood, P.J. 1980. Mating systems, philopatry, and dispersal in birds and mammals. Animal Behaviour 28: 1140–1162.

Haftorn, S. 1971. Norges fugler. Universitetsforlaget, Oslo. (In Norwegian)

Hagemeijer, W.J.M. & Blair, M.J. 1997. The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds: Their Distribution and Abundance. T & A D Poyser, London.

Heise, C.D. & Moore, F.R. 2003. Age-related differences in foraging efficiency, molt, and fat deposition of Gray Catbirds prior to autumn migration. Condor 105: 496–504.

Helm B., Piersma T. & van der Jeugd H. 2006. Sociable schedules: interplay between avian seasonal and social behaviour. Animal Behaviour 72: 245–262.

Hågvar, S. & Hogstad, O. 1991. Hakkespetter og vendehals. Pp. 105–141 in: Hogstad, O. (ed.). Norges dyr. Vol. 3, Fuglene. J. W. Cappelens forlag, Oslo. (In Norwegian)

Lislevand, T., Myklebust, M., Rangbru, B., Rudolfsen, G. & Aarvak, T. 2009. Dvergspetten Dendrocopos minor i Norge. NOF rapport 4-2009. Norwegian Ornithological Society, Trondheim. (In Norwegian with English summary)

McKinnon, E.A., Fraser, K.C. & Stutchbury, B.J.M. 2013. New discoveries in landbird migration using geolocators, and a flight plan for the future. Auk 130: 211–222.

Myers, J.P. 1981. A test of three hypotheses for latitudinal segregation of the sexes in wintering birds. Canadian Journal of Zoology 59: 1527–1534.

Newton, I. 2008. The migration ecology of birds. Academic Press, London.

Noble, G.K. 1939. The role of dominance in the social life of birds. Auk 56: 263–273.

Pulido F. & Berthold P. 2003. Quantitative genetic analysis of migratory behaviour. Pp. 53–77 in: Berthold P., Gwinner E. & Sonnenschein E. (eds.). Avian migration. Springer, Berlin.

Rogers, C.M., Theimer, T.L., Nolan, V. & Ketterson, E.D. 1989. Does dominance determine how far Dark-eyed Juncos, Junco hyemalis, migrate into their winter range? Animal Behaviour 37: 498–506.

Røer, J.E. 1997. Overvåking av spurvefugler ved hjelp av standardisert fangst. NOF rapportserie, rapport nr. 2–1997. Norsk Ornitologisk Forening, Trondheim. (In Norwegian)

Selås, V., Steen, R., Kobro, S., Lislevand, T. & Stenberg, I. 2008. Direct and indirect weather impacts on spring populations of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) in Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 23: 148–153.

Silkey, M., Nur, N. & Geupel, G.R. 1999. The use of mist-net capture rates to monitor annual variation in abundance: a validation study. Condor 101: 288–298.

Smith, H.G., & Nilsson, J.-Å. 1987. Intraspecific variation in migratory pattern of a partial migrant, the Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): an evaluation of different hypotheses. Auk 104: 109–115.

Terrill, S.B. & Able, K.P. 1988. Bird Migration Terminology. Auk 105: 205–206.

Wikelski, M., Kays, R.W., Kasdin, N.J., Thorup, K., Smith, J.A. & Swenson, G.W. Jr. 2007. Going wild: what a global small-animal tracking system could do for experimental biologists. Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 181–186.

Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. 2015. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dryobates minor). In del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 December 2015).

Yohannes, E., Biebach, H., Nikolaus, G., Pearson, D.J. 2009. Passerine migration strategies and body mass variation along geographic sectors across East Africa, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Journal of Ornithology 150: 369–381.

Bergen Open Access Publishing