White-backed woodpecker conservation

White-backed woodpecker, Dendrocopos leucotos, is one of Sweden's most threatened species and is currently listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the Swedish Red List. Since the 1930s, the population has declined by more than 90% and today there are only about 20 pairs of white-backed woodpeckers left in Sweden. The sharp reduction is mainly due to the fact that the species' habitat with old deciduous forests with a lot of dead wood has largely disappeared from Sweden as forestry has been modernized.

Nordens Ark's work

In order to save the species, the Nature Conservation Society has been running the "White-backed Woodpecker Project" since 1990. The project focuses on protecting and recreating deciduous forest environments, supporting feeding and strengthening the fragile remaining Swedish population through planting. Nordens Ark began a collaboration with the project in 1995 to develop a breeding method for white-backed woodpeckers where the goal was to be able to hatch young for release into the wild. Something no other facility in the world had previously done.

The breeding facility at Nordens Ark consisted of several independent aviaries, both in the park and in a closed breeding facility. Breeding stock was imported from the more prosperous wild population in Norway. The development of the breeding method went on for a few years and in 2002, for the first time ever, white-backed woodpeckers hatched in enclosures – a world-unique event.

Between 2002–2021, more than 160 white-backed woodpeckers were hatched on Nordens Ark, where the majority were released into suitable deciduous forest environments. Thanks to the breeding work and other habitat improvement measures, the white-backed woodpecker still exists in Sweden.

Hane av vitryggig hackspett.

News from the project - October 2023

As of 2022, Nordens Ark's role in the project changed from being a practical executor to becoming a strategic partner. Together with the Nature Conservation Society, we are developing plans for the continued breeding and release work where Nordens Ark assists with our unique expertise.