Weasel Takes A Wild Ride On A Woodpecker’s Back

Martin Le-May

The now-viral image of a weasel clinging to the back of a woodpecker is not photoshopped, according to wildlife experts and Martin Le-May, the photographer of the picture-perfect moment.

Mr. Le-May was talking a stroll with his wife Ann when he caught sight of the bird squawking in distress. “I soon realized it was a woodpecker with some kind of small mammal on its back," said Le-May to BBC News.

Just as he swapped his binoculars for a camera, the bird flew off with the weasel on its back. Le-May thinks their presence may have momentarily distracted the weasel, and the woodpecker seized upon the fortuitous interruption to fly off the ground and dislodge the weasel. 

“The woodpecker left with its life,” said Le-May, and “the weasel just disappeared into the long grass.”

Although the event is incredible, it is not impossible. "A female weasel weighs less than a Mars Bar but is as ferocious as a lion,” said wildlife expert Lucy Cooke to BBC News. “This is why the woodpecker would have been able to take off with it on its back."

Credit: Martin Le-May

Weasels vary in length from 173 to 217 millimeters (6.8 to 8.5 inches) and usually have russet coats with white bellies. The tiny but ferocious mammal is notorious for being both a nuisance and a value to society: The weasel frequently kills backyard poultry, yet also helps to reduce rodent populations.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons. 

The European green woodpecker (Picus viridis) is a ground-feeding bird that spends much of its time foraging for ants. 

Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

To hear more about this well-timed image from wildlife expert Lucy Cooke on BBC News, listen to the audio segment below.

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