Hot off the press! Avineck team publishes on the ecology of Black woodpeckers

Avineck student Camille Puverel, her supervisor Yoan Paillet and colleagues have published their results on the factors driving cavity excavation by the Black woodpecker (Puverel et al. 2019 Forest Ecology and Management).

The Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) is the largest woodpecker species in Europe (mean body mass: about 300g, wingspan: about 70 cm). It feeds by using its bill to hammer on trees and also diggs hollows in trees (excavation) to builds nests. In their study Puverel et al. were interested to identify the characterstics of the trees excavated by the Black woodpecker. They went to the woods to collect quantitative data in order to better understand the relationships between birds and the structure of their habitat.

The authors hypothesized that:

(i) Cavity-trees would have lower wood density and display more conks of fungi than control-trees;

(ii) The local environment of cavity-trees would be less crowded than those of the control trees. In particular,
the first branch would be higher up, and their first neighboring tree would be further away from cavity-trees
compared to control-trees;

(iii) Cavity-trees would display a higher number of other woodpecker cavities and more saproxylic microhabitats
than the control-trees.

Puverel et al. validated most of these hypotheses and showed that cavity trees differ from their control counterparts. The study is based on the master's thesis of Avineck student Camille Puverel supervised by Yoan Paillet. They also presented their work at the 8th International Woodpecker Conference in Białowieża (Poland) earlier this year.

The woodpecker is one of the model species that are intensively investigated by the Avineck team. So, more to come! Stay tuned for new insights into the the biomechanics of the head and neck in woodpeckers.


Puverel C, Abourachid A, Böhmer C, Leban J-M, Svoboda  M and Paillet Y (2019) This is my spot: what are the characteristics of the trees excavated by the Black Woodpecker? A case study in two managed French forests. Forest Ecology and Management 453: 117621. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117621.

Böhmer C, Fasquelle B, Furet M, Wenger P and Abourachid A (2019). Combining precision and power to maximize performance: a case study of the woodpecker’s neck. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering: Supplement for the International French Society of Biomechanics 2019 Conference, Poitiers, France.

Fasquelle B, Furet M, Abourachid A, Böhmer C, Chablat D, Chevallereau C and Wenger P (2019) Modelling, design and control of a bird neck using tensegrity mechanisms, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Tensegrity Workshop, Montreal, Canada, 2019.

Abourachid A and Böhmer C (2019). The neck of the birds, from for to function. International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM) in Prague, Czech Republic.

Puverel C, Abourachid A, Böhmer C, Leban J-M and Paillet Y (2019). This is my spot: characteristics of trees bearing Black Woodpecker cavities. 8th International Woodpecker Meeting in Bialowieza, Poland.

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