Huge black woodpeckers could soon be arriving in the UK for the first time from mainland Europe, bird experts predict.
The birds are around the size of a crow with distinctive red feathers on their heads, but have never been in Britain before.
They are a third as big as the UK’s biggest variety, the green woodpecker.
One of the world’s leading woodpecker experts, Gerard Gorman, said the two species could soon be trumped by a third: the black woodpecker, the biggest woodpecker species in Europe.
At up to 22inches long with a 33-inch wingspan, it is the size of a crow.
Huge black woodpeckers could soon be arriving in the UK for the first time from mainland Europe, bird experts predict
Mr Gorman, author of Woodpeckers of the World, announced the arrival of the Black Woodpecker at meeting at Birdfair, the annual festival of birdwatching in Rutland.
He said: ‘The black woodpecker is the biggest woodpecker in Europe, an iconic bird. There have been rumours and even fabrications of its arrival, but it has never officially been recorded in the British Isles.’
‘It is in France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands. No one understands why it hasn’t got across the Channel or the North Sea.
‘It’s very near and a good flier and the sea is not a barrier and it’s around 30-40 miles away from Kent.
‘In France they have been increasing in number and they are not rare at all. They move to find new places to live. To put it simply it’s only a matter of time that one will move westwards and make that hop to Britain.’
Dawn Balmer, head of surveys at the British Trust for Ornithology said: ‘They can cross water, they have expanded from Sweden to Denmark.
‘It would not surprise me if one did turn up.’
She added: ‘It will be massively exciting if a black woodpecker comes to Britain. Hundreds, potentially of thousands of twitchers would descend to see it. Most birders dream about black woodpeckers arriving and finding one.’
The prediction comes as the official list of British birds has been expanded by two, bringing the official number of bird species seen in the wild in Britain up to 620.
The British Ornithologists’ Union, established in 1858, is the authority that rules whether a bird should be considered British.
The birds are around the size of a crow with distinctive red feathers on their heads, but have never been in Britain before
It has added two new additions to the list: the Falcated duck, and the White-rumped swift.
The Falcated duck gets its name from its distinctive curved tail – falx is Latin for sickle – and is thought to be migrating to the UK from China and India where it has ‘threatened’ status.
A male Falcated duck was first spotted at Welney in Norfolk, in February 1986.
The Falcated Duck has bright green plumage on the head of the male, and black and white mottled body.
But it has only been admitted now experts are confident that the bird has naturally arrived in Britain rather than escaping from a private collection.
The White-rumped swift has been accepted much more rapidly after being first spotted last year at Hornsea Mere in Yorkshire.
As photographs of the bird were so clear, the BOU has rapidly decided it is an official British bird.
Lesley Ball, who first spotted the swift last year wrote that the minute she realised it was a white rumped swift when she saw it at Hornsea Mere in Yorkshire and put out a message on WhatsApp, a ‘throng’ of birdwatchers descended.
Describing the moment of realisation she wrote: ‘Finding a rare bird on your patch is always exciting, but this was beyond belief, and the tricky identification and weather made for a wholly nerve-wracking moment for Hornsea Mere birders.
What does it feel like to find a new bird for Britain? Absolutely amazing!’