Dead young woodpecker to natural history museum

This is a video about a juvenile great spotted woodpecker.

On 14 June 2015, I was in the Rembrandtpark, opposite the place where famous painter Rembrandt was born.

Not far from a building, a dead woodpecker laying on the ground.

The bird had a red cap on the top of its head. So, very probably a young great spotted woodpecker. In theory, a middle spotted woodpecker was also a possibility. However, that species is much rarer in this region; and tends to avoid urban areas like the Rembrandtpark more than its somewhat bigger relative.

There are some trees in the Rembrandtpark which might attract great spotted woodpeckers. However, the park is rather stony and not big. Maybe the young woodpecker had been on one of its first flights, from a nest near the ethnology museum or elsewhere with more and bigger trees. And then, it may have been too inexperienced to know about the dangers of flying against windows; or of cats. I don’t know yet what killed this woodpecker.

I put the bird into a plastic bag. Then, the bag went into my freezer, next to the bread.

Today, I took the dead woodpecker to Naturalis museum. Not far from the entrance, a male blackbird flying along with me.

Mr Pepijn Kamminga, of the Naturalis ornithology department, received the dead bird. He was not sure whether it was a great spotted or middle spotted woodpecker either, but also thought juvenile great spotted was most probable. The museum receives only about two or three dead great spotted woodpeckers a year; and still far less middle spotted woodpeckers.

Years ago, I had brought a dead great tit to Naturalis. The ornithology department then said they did not get great tits very often. Dead bigger birds like kestrels, though less common, had more likelihood of ending up in the museum collections; being more conspicuous, and because people finding dead small common birds might think mistakenly that museums already had plenty of them.

Mr Kamminga told me that situation had changed. They now have contracts with bird ringing stations that they will send dead birds to Naturalis. This means that now, among the most common dead birds arriving are willow warblers, great tits, blue tits, and robins. Also still bigger birds, like woodcocks and buzzards.

Inside the black plastic bag in which I had brought it, the spotted woodpecker went into the museum freezer. The freezer was rather full. Probably, Mr Kamminga said, in three months’ time or later because of the backlog of so many birds in the freezer, a taxidermist will conserve the woodpecker. Then, we may get to know more about which species it was, and about what caused its death.

As I walked away from the museum, a wren calling in the bushes, just two meter away.

This video shows a young great spotted woodpecker, fed by its parents.

This video is about a great spotted woodpecker nest.

31 thoughts on “Dead young woodpecker to natural history museum

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