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Hairy Woodpecker hairy woodpecker

Identification and Pictures

(Picoides villosus)hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers are a medium sized woodpecker about 8 1/2 to 10 1/2 inches.  They have a white back, and under parts.  The wings are black with white spots.  Their inner tail feathers are black, and the outer tail feathers are white.  They have a black and white striped head with a large bill, useful for probing bark for insects, and excavating cavities for nesting.  The males have a red patch on the back of their head.  The females look like the males but do not have the red patch.  Juvenile birds have red feathers in their crown.  They launch into short, rapid flights as they move from tree to tree in search of insects.

Hair woodpeckers are often confused with Downy woodpeckers.  The Downy is smaller, and the bill is much smaller in relation to the head.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.     hairy woodpecker


The voice is a high rattle, and the call is sharp peek.  During conflicts they will make shrill cries while holding their wings over their heads.  Sound

Preferred Habitat

Hair Woodpeckers can be found year round across much of North America.  They like wooded lands, mountain forests, and river groves, both coniferous, and deciduous forests.  You may also see the birds in parks or your back yard.

Breeding and Nesting

Female Hairy woodpeckers choose the territory, and attract a mate by drumming.  During courting the birds bob their heads from side to side, stretch out their necks, with their bills pointed high in the air, and circle a tree trunk while flicking their wings.  They will also do drumming duets.  They form pairs in late winter.  The two birds will excavate holes for nesting and roosting in a tree.  They like to nest in deciduous trees even though they prefer to spend more time in coniferous trees.  The inside of the nest is usually bare except for wood chips at the bottom.  The female will lay 3 to 6 glossy white eggs, and both parents will incubate them for about 14 days.  The female incubates the eggs during the day, and the male incubates them at night.  Both birds will feed the young, which will leave the nest in about 30 days.  The young birds will stay with the parents for a couple more weeks.  The pair will normally raise one brood a year.


Hairy woodpecker's main diet is insects, but they also eat fruits, berries, nuts and sap from Sapsucker holes.  They forage for insects by probing the bark on tree trunks, and branches with their sharp beaks.  They can hear insects under the barks as well as feel their vibrations.  Their long tongues are covered with a sticky substance that insects stick to.  They will visit backyard seed, and suet feeders.

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