We sequenced parts of three mitochondrial genes in 67 great spotted woodpeckers Dendrocopos major taken from 17 sites across Eurasia and Japan. Two groups, differing by ca. 3% sequence divergence, were determined to have had independent evolutionary histories: samples from the southeast (Sakhalin, Primor'e, Hokkaido), and the rest of Eurasia. The southeastern group corresponds to the subspecies D. m. japonicus, which will likely merit species status upon study of all subspecies; at present it should be considered an evolutionarily significant unit. From the United Kingdom to the Russian North Pacific, no phylogeographic divisions were found, which is likely a result of recent range expansion following retreat of permafrost after the last ice age.