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WildFilmHistory » Home » Films » Woodpecker

Woodpecker  (1954)

Also known as: Zimmerleute des Waldes
Great spotted woodpecker inside nest with young, from Woodpecker

An innovative production from the world-renowned filmmaker and passionate naturalist Heinz Sielmann, Woodpecker (Zimmerleute des Waldes) is an intriguing celebration of these territorial birds known for their distinctive knocking.

Showing life as no bird-watcher had seen it before, Sielmann's half hour film was groundbreaking in its day, with views inside the woodpeckers' nest holes, close-ups of feeding, and even infra-red footage of bird action in complete darkness. 

Capturing scenes never recorded before, Woodpecker is an outstanding example of the German cinematographer's dedication and technical imagination. He pioneered many techniques which included drilling sections in rotting trees to capture the birds' extraordinarily long tongues seeking ants and grubs. Intricate photography details their nests and required huge patience on the part of Sielmann who, after constructing hides, had to gently accustom the birds to sufficient light for filming.

Shown in Britain on the BBC, its popularity was so immense that the Corporation's switchboard was jammed for an hour following its airing and on the 'appreciation index', it ranked second only to the Coronation. Despite going on to make a wide range of wildlife films, the success of this unique documentary meant Sielmann has been known ever since as 'Mr Woodpecker'.

Copyright holder

Copyright Holder: Heinz Sielmann Stiftung

Film credits

Photography: Heinz Sielmann
Photography: Georg Schimanski

Related links

Heinz Sielmann
Great spotted woodpecker inside nest with young, from Woodpecker
Great spotted woodpecker inside nest with...