Contrasting seasonal reactions of two sibling woodpeckers to playback stimulation in urban areas — implications for inventory and monitoring of the Syrian woodpecker

in Behaviour
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The Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus) is the most synanthropic species among European woodpeckers and can be considered to be a synurbic species benefiting from human activity and man-made habitats. Because it is closely related to the common great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), the interactions between the species should be investigated before conducting any study on the Syrian woodpecker. The aim of this study was to assess, analyse and compare both species reactions to the broadcasting of Syrian woodpecker playbacks throughout the year, in urban areas. The study was conducted in three Polish towns. All sites hosted populations of Syrian and great spotted woodpeckers living sympatrically. Both woodpeckers were observed throughout each year of study and responded to playback. The Syrian woodpecker more willingly responded to playbacks. Especially interesting was that the Syrian woodpecker female participated in territorial activity to a greater degree than males (sex-role reversed species). This is the first woodpecker study that shows a stronger territorial activity in females than males and the first reporting woodpecker reactions to playback stimulation throughout the year. The Syrian woodpecker is a rare and threatened species in Europe (protected under the Birds Directive of the European Union (2009/147/EC) and is considered a keystone species for woods and associated biodiversity in urban areas. Therefore, application of efficient methods for precise recognition of Syrian woodpecker territories (not only breeding ones) on the basis of correct interpretation of its behaviour is crucial for its conservation and urban habitat management.



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  • Distribution of woodpeckers’ reactions according to time of reaction (A), time of reaction in each season (B), type of reaction (C) and type of reaction in each season (D). SWf, Syrian woodpecker females; SWm, Syrian woodpecker males; GWf, great spotted woodpecker females; GWm, great spotted woodpecker males. S, single birds; P, birds with a partner; A, all birds. Time of reaction: (1) during first playback; (2) during first listening; (3) during second playback; (4) during second listening. Type of reaction: I, response (vocalization) from afar; II, flying to loudspeaker, vocalization, observation; III, flying to loudspeaker, without vocalization, observation; IV, flying to loudspeaker, vocalization, foraging; V, flying to loudspeaker, without vocalization, foraging; VI, flying to loudspeaker, drumming; VII, without a visible marked reaction.

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