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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Woodpeckers are among the most remarkable birds in the avian world, having evolved a unique anatomy that enables them to peck and bore into solid timber both to find food and to create nesting cavities. The birds are key indicators of forest health and perform an important ecological role, providing holes that many other animals use. Woodpeckers have been considered symbols of fertility, security, strength, power, prophecy, magic, rhythm, medicine, and carpentry, and have been esteemed across cultures as the guardians of woodlands, tree surgeons, fire-bringers, weather forecasters, and boat-builders.

In this charming volume, avian expert Gerard Gorman delves into the natural and cultural history of woodpeckers, exploring their origins and habitats and the ways they have fascinated humankind throughout history. Gorman finds woodpeckers everywhere—from ancient Babylon, Greece, and Rome, to the jungles of Amazonia and Borneo, to our modern-day Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Richly illustrated with images from both nature and culture, Woodpecker will appeal to everyone who is interested in these extraordinary birds.

224 pages | 60 color plates, 40 halftones | 5 1/4 x 7 1/2 | © 2017


Biological Sciences: Natural History

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"Few things are as important in natural history as context. Reaktion’s magnificent Animal series seldom fails to reflect this, and Gorman’s contribution on woodpeckers maintains the series’s high standard. The diverse and widespread Picidae family is here placed with diligence and rigor in both its ecological and its cultural contexts. . . . In exploring the birds' extraordinary anatomical adaptations and remarkable behaviors, Gorman is clear, readable, and evidently expert . . . The book’s many splendid illustrations supplement Gorman’s text well . . . Gorman and Reaktion should be applauded for a thorough and handsome primer on an underestimated bird."

Times Literary Supplement

"One of a remarkable series of animal monographs. . . . In this book Gorman covers the whole woodpecker group, including Wrynecks, Piculets, and True Woodpeckers, looking at their natural and cultural history as well as their fascination for humans. . . . A fascinating read."

Derek Toomer | British Trust for Ornithology News

"An accessible and concise overview of this remarkable family, well illustrated and full of fascinating facts. There’s plenty on the cultural history of woodpeckers as well as the science of the subject, and interesting diversions into the debate on the existence or otherwise of the presumed extinct ivory-billed woodpecker. A great addition to a great series of books."

Bird Watching

"If you like the Gorman's other woodpecker books, you should like this one!"

Ian Paulsen | Birdbooker Report

"Gorman is a true specialist expert on woodpeckers, with four previous books on the birds (and several on other bird and mammal species) to his credit. Gorman's breadth of knowledge makes Woodpecker definitive. . . . I don't know of a better introduction to woodpeckers as they relate to all things human and inhuman. If you are keen on watching or listening to birds, . . . Gorman's book deserves a place on your reference shelf."

Tim Morris | lection

"Humorous, lucid, and highly readable, this book is a delight. . . . This is a beautiful book of great interest, which will be appreciated by anyone who wants to be amused and amazed by the diverse role that woodpeckers have in our lives."


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