Woodpecker takes weasel on wild ride

A weasel hitches a ride on a woodpecker's wings. Photo: Martin Le-May

An extraordinary photograph of a weasel riding on the back of a woodpecker that seems almost too incredible to be true, is not photoshopped, according to the British man who snapped the now-viral photo.

Martin Le-May was walking through an East London park with his wife, Ann, when they heard a ‘distressed squawking’.

The couple gazed through a set of binoculars to get a closer look and spotted a bird ‘unnaturally hopping’ and flapping its wings.

Mr Le-May told ABC News that the bird flew in their direction just as he switched from his binoculars to a camera, and landed right in front of him.

"It was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life,” he said.

Mr Le-May said he feared for the woodpecker's life, but believes he and his wife may have distracted the 'hungry' weasel.

“The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left,“ he said.

“Quickly the bird gathered its self-respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight.”

The unusual snap has sparked speculation that it may have been photoshopped, but British wildlife presenter Steve Backshall told BBC News he has ‘no reason to doubt it’.

Mr Backshall claimed the woodpecker is strong enough to carry up to 850 times its body weight.

Wildlife expert Lucy Cooke told BBC News the woodpecker is not the usual prey for weasels, who usually attack rabbits.

“But weasels are fearless,” she said.

"A female weasel weighs less than a Mars Bar but is as ferocious as a lion, so this is why the woodpecker would have been able to take off with it on its back."

Mr Le-May said he is overwhelmed by the response to his image, which has been widely shared online, but feels proud it has been seen by so many people.