Woodpecker weasel picture: Steve Backshall says 'no reason to doubt' it's true

By Jim Connolly
Newsbeat reporter

Published
image copyrightMartin Le-May

A woodpecker carrying a weasel on its back is taking the internet by storm.

However, the photo is leaving us with some big questions. Is it real? How can it carry such a big weight and fly? Is anything stronger in the animal kingdom?

There is a only one person to turn to in times like this... Deadly 60 presenter Steve Backshall.

"For the bird to be able to fly is pretty extraordinary, but not unheard of, so I have no reason to doubt it."

Steve may have no reason to question the image being real, but some people on social media think it's a fake.

"If the image is real, it's remarkable, but nothing in it is totally unbelievable.

"For the green woodpecker to be able to fly away would be extraordinary, but a young or female weasel would be a pretty lightweight passenger."

He told us that he is a bit of a fan of the creature apparently taking a ride.

"The weasel is pretty fascinating," he says, adding that it was probably trying to attack the bird.

"It can kill things much bigger than itself, so it's an impressive little creature in itself when you think about its size."

Steve's hunch is backed by the photographer who took the shot on Monday - Martin Le-May.

He said the bird was making a "distressed squawking" during its struggle in the sky above Hornchurch Country Park, east London.

This image has left the curious minds at Newsbeat with lots of questions, mainly what is stronger than a woodpecker in comparison with its size.

Steve says: "The champion weight lifter amongst animals is the rhinoceros beetle, they can withstand 850 times their body weight bearing down on them. That's the champion carrier."

We've done some pretty amateur maths and worked out how strong that is compared to a human and we reckon it's like a human carrying an Airbus 320 plane full of 174 passengers.

If you want to check out our sums to see how we came up with that, we took the average weight of a male in the UK, multiplied that by 850 and looked to see what weighed the same.

Perhaps not thoroughly scientific but it does show how weak we humans are in comparison.

Steve told Newsbeat that humans just can't compare to the likes of a beetle on size-to-weight ratio.

"Invertebrates generally have a greater strength to body weight ratio than other animals.

"Leafcutter ants carry vast sail-like chunks of leaf in their jaws; often with another small ant on top to act as their guardian, protecting them from parasitic wasps."

It all makes us feel a bit puny. However Steve doesn't think we should worry about it too much.

"We're not necessarily weak in comparison to other animals, but everything in evolution is about trade offs. Having a big brain consumes energy, having dexterous fingers means they are less powerful."

Nature is full of creatures we might consider freaks. Steve says there are a few we should all check out.

"One we should look out in the weasel family would be the wolverine, which is not much bigger than a badger, but can kill an adult moose by tearing out its achilles tendon.

"Or check out the sea otter, another weasel which uses tools to smash open crabs and mussels on its chest.

image copyrightAFP

Steve reckons the sea is full of great creatures with super strength.

"How about the sperm whale, a free-diving mammal that can dive to two miles of depth on a single breath, and stay down for two hours?"

And one of the most amazing things about sperm wales is that "the males can produce bursts of 220 decibel sound that can be used to paralyse their prey."

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