Understanding temporal dynamics of populations is important for the management of endangered and/or harvested populations as well as for evolutionary biology. Population sizes usually fluctuate over time because of changes in reproduction, mortality/survival, immigration and emigration. I reviewed the state of knowledge with respect to these vital demographic parameters on nine European woodpecker species. Only 4.2% of over 2 100 publications found on these species reported on one or more of the vital rates, indicating severe knowledge gaps with respect to these traits. For most species, I found some information on reproduction (nest and fledging success), but generally much less on adult survival and immigration. No study quantitatively reported on emigration. No information on vital rates was found for Picus canus and Dendrocopos syriacus. Results are discussed in relation to geographic distribution and trends of the studied populations as well as with respect to life-history aspects and factors influencing vital rates.