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Woodpeckers on Belfast city outskirts

Published 18/03/2013

Woodpeckers could be poised to start up a family in Belfast for the first time.

It's about eight years since the great spotted woodpecker started showing up in gardens along the east coast of Northern Ireland and now it looks like some of the birds may be considering starting a family in the city. That distinctive drumming sound has been documented in Belvoir Forest in recent weeks, signalling that at least one woodpecker there has romance on its mind.

Woodpeckers have gradually been moving into Ireland over the past decade and have now been sighted as far west as Fermanagh and Tyrone, according to RSPB NI director Dr James Robinson. But the drumming heard close to RSPB headquarters in Belvoir Forest suggest they could be about to breed in the city this spring, he says.

"This bird has been doing very well in GB – there has been a 400% increase over the past 40 years," Dr Robinson said.

"They've being seen as far west as places like Fermanagh and Tyrone – they're moving steadily westwards."

One theory is that great spotted woodpeckers became severely restricted in range during the last Ice Age and didn't return to Ireland – until now.

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