Conservation of the white-backed woodpecker

The white-backed woodpecker is critically endangered in Sweden. Today there are approximately 25 individuals in the country, but 250 are needed for survival.

The white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) is critically endangered in Sweden according to the Swedish red list. At the beginning of the last century the birds were found in many places in Sweden but today there are only approximately 20 individuals left, and estimates show that at least 250 individuals are needed for survival. The main reason for the decline is lack of suitable habitat due to intense forestry.

Old deciduous forests – an impoverished habitat

The white-backed woodpecker has high requirements on the environment and is dependent on old deciduous forests rich in dead wood. They feed on wood-boring and bark-living insects, living in dead and decaying wood. Especially important trees are aspen, birch, European alder, grey alder and goat willow.

Unfortunately, the forest industry in Sweden has replaced deciduous trees with pine and spruce which are more profitable. This had led to an impoverishment of the woodpecker’s habitat.

Why do we need to save this bird?

The white-back woodpecker is an umbrella species, meaning its survival is not only important for itself but for several other species dependent on the same environmental conditions. Consequently, conservation actions directed towards saving the white-backed woodpecker will help save other species as well.

What we do to save the white-backed woodpecker

Project White-backed Woodpecker has been run by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) since 1990. The aim is to protect both the white-backed woodpecker and its environment. This is what we do:

  • In collaboration with volunteers, county boards and forest companies, we work with restoration and conservation of suitable habitats.
  • Together with different partners we conduct captive breeding and release of woodpeckers into the wild and supplementary feeding programs.
  • Nationally, we work towards an enhancement and reform of current forest policy. We also work to ensure that international laws governing species protection and UN conventions are followed.

Help us save the white-backed woodpecker from extinction!



The White-back needs you!

Today there are approximately 20 individuals in the country, but 250 are needed for survival.