Woodpecker with unusual plumage spotted in Tyneside

The Great Spotted Woodpecker has been  sporting a different look on trips to  Ken Johnson's garden in North Shields

The great spotted woodpecker in a garden in North Shields
The great spotted woodpecker in a garden in North Shields

Disguised in a dashing yellow cap, this unusual Great Spotted Woodpecker has been spotted in North East gardens.

With his buttercup mop, the youngster’s rare appearance is causing a flutter among twitchers after he was photographed enjoying the culinary delights laid on by 76-year-old Ken Johnson.

For the past three months Ken has been spotting a mating pair of woodpeckers, the male with the traditional red shock on his head and tail feathers, making their weekly trips to his bird bath and peanut feed.

But something seems to have gone awry with their young, as two juveniles sport the unusual yellow plumage while out and about on tentative flights in North Shields.

Ken Johnson who spotted the yellow marked Woodpecker
Ken Johnson who spotted the yellow marked Woodpecker

Ken, who has lived in his house in Spring Gardens for more than a decade, has been lucky enough to have his camera to hand on their visits.

He said: “I’m by no means an avid bird watcher but I do like to take care of the garden and leave feed out for the birds and they are just fantastic to see.

“I thought there would be a lot of bird fans who would be interested to see what you can get in a garden in an urban area - we are not in the rolling countryside.

“I started to see the two come into the garden about three months ago for the first time in the 12 years I have lived here. Then two young started coming to feed as they like the peanuts and a drink of water but instead of red they had these bright yellow streaks.

“I’ve never seen anything like them before, normally I get robins and chaffinches but these are by far the most interesting and unusual thing I’ve managed to photograph in the garden. I’m lucky to have been able to capture them. I don’t stand at the window for hours waiting for them to arrive but I like to watch the birds if I’m sitting in the conservatory.”

The great spotted woodpecker

The unconventional colouring of Ken’s Great Spotted Woodpeckers is said to be down to an abnormality in their genetics.

Although the bird, which has a distinctive bouncy way of flying, is a common garden visitor in England, those with the yellow streaks are rare.

Tom Waters is a wildlife adviser for the RSPB. He said: “It is an excellent looking bird and is a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

“It is lacking carotenoid in its plumage, making what should be a red colour show as the yellow.

“The different colour is down to an abnormality in the plumage. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are common and usually can be seen on peanut feeders.”

About the size of a blackbird, the woodpecker spends most of its time clinging to tree trunks and branches trying to hide from view.


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