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There are nesting white-backed woodpeckers on SCA land in Västerbotten. The very rare woodpecker has great demands on its habitat and SCA has taken several measures in the area to try to benefit it. That work now seems to have finally paid off.
When Hampus Pettersson, maintenance manager at SCA Skog in Umeå, was waiting for a road contractor out in the forest a couple of weeks ago, he ran into a couple of officials at the county board who were out on another matter. As they stood talking, something suddenly flapped past and sat in a nearby tree.
- It was a white-backed woodpecker! Soon after, we discovered the nest hole where there was another woodpecker. It was awesome and the whole group was very happy. This is an incredibly rare woodpecker, says Hampus.
Andreas Garpebring at the Västerbotten County Administrative Board was one of the group that saw the woodpeckers.
- We could see one feeding and then one came with larvae, so it's definitely a breeding! We already knew that there are white-backed woodpeckers in the area, but we were very surprised and happy that there is now a breeding pair. The County Administrative Board usually tries to follow up the nestings so we'll see how this one turns out, says Andreas Garpebring and adds:
- If you have the privilege of seeing a white-backed woodpecker, don't disturb it!
Great demands on the living environment
The white-backed woodpecker is classified as critically endangered according to the Swedish Red List. According to the Nature Conservation Society, there are only about 40 individuals in Sweden, and about 10 breeding pairs.
- White-backed woodpeckers have great demands on their habitat and live in forests where there is a large proportion of deciduous trees and many dead and dying deciduous trees where they can find food in the form of long-living insects associated with aspen, alder, birch and willow. However, such forests are not so common nowadays. The woodpecker also needs large areas of good quality to survive, a territory during the breeding season is at least 100 hectares, says Andreas Renöfält, forest ecologist at SCA Skog, and adds:
- The reason why there is so much focus on the white-backed woodpecker is not only because it is beautiful and exciting, but also because it is a so-called umbrella species. This means that there are around 200 other red-listed plant and animal species that depend on the same kind of habitat as the woodpecker. The finding of nesting white-backed woodpeckers therefore means a top rating that we have succeeded in creating a forest with very high natural values.
One of SCA's responsibilities
- In this specific area, SCA's nature conservation specialist Ulf Hallin has worked diligently for a long time to implement active measures to benefit the whiteback and other values linked to leaves. He has been very committed and it is incredibly fun that there is now a breeding pair here, says Andreas Renöfält.
The discovery of the breeding pair means that the SCA can now add the White-backed Woodpecker to its list of species of responsibility.
- As I said, we have tried to favor it, but the lack of observations meant that it did not get a given place in our list of responsibilities, but now it will be like that, says Andreas Renöfält.
In recent years, gratifyingly, there have been a number of sightings of white-backed woodpeckers in Norrland. Last year, four breeding pairs were observed in Västerbotten.
- It is known that white-backed woodpeckers fly over from Finland to northern Sweden. Finland has been successful in favoring the woodpecker, and in the latest Finnish red list from 2019, the species could be moved from acutely threatened to the vulnerable species group, says Andreas Renöfält.
Ongoing action program
Since 2005, Sweden has had a special action program for white-backed woodpeckers and their habitats, with the aim of creating a viable population of white-backed woodpeckers. The program covers the counties of Västra Götaland, Värmland, Örebro, Västmanland, Uppsala, Dalarna, Gävleborg, Kalmar, Västerbotten and Norrbotten. The work with the action program is run by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the relevant county administrations, the Norwegian Forestry Agency, the Nature Conservation Association and forestry.
Photo: Pixabay/Takashi Yanagisawa