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Hairy Woodpecker - BirdForum Opus

Female of pacific type, notice that white markings are limited to the edge of the wing
Photo © by digishooter
Wofford Heights, Kern Co., California, USA, 28 November 2009
Dryobates villosus

Leuconotopicus villosus


Male nominate subspecies, extensive white markings on wings
Photo © by Marcel Gauthier
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada, 25 November 2005

16·5–26 cm (6½-10¼ in)
Males have a red patch on the back of the head.
Females lack this red patch.
Juvenile and second year birds have red feathers in the crown.
The male usually has a more extensive covering of red feathers than the female.


White on especially underparts can be replaced by buffy and the white on the back have reduced size in darker forms especially found in Pacific North-West and in Central America

Similar Species

Downy Woodpecker: Hairy Woodpecker has a proportionately larger bill that is about the same length as the head.

Downy Woodpecker has a much smaller, stubbier bill. Hairy Woodpecker lacks dark markings on its outer tail feathers that the Downy has. (This field mark is less useful in the Northwest where darker races of both species exist and these marks are usually present). Hairy usually has a black dividing line at the rear through the red (male) or white area just below the crown, while 99% of Downy Woodpeckers lack that dividing line[2].


Nearly universal in North America. In the east north to southern Canada, in the west north to southern Alaska. Also found in the mountains of Mexico and Central America south to Panama.


Placed in genus Leuconotopicus by Gill and Donsker. Formerly in Picoides


Juvenile, western subspecies
Photo © by digishooter
Wofford Heights, Kern Co., California, USA, July 2009

There are 15 subspecies[1]:


A variety of forests (particularly pine), woodlands and suburban gardens.


Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Deerbird
Kentucky, USA, 12 January 2016


Diet consists of insects (mostly wood-boring beetles, berries and acorns. Will also visit bird feeders for peanuts, suet, black oil sunflower seeds.
The southern populations (Costa Rica and Panama) seems to find insects in moss and other epiphytes, sometimes on very thin branches[4].


Both sexes excavate a cavity in live wood. The clutch of 3 to 6 eggs are incubated by both adults. Males brood the eggs at night, and females during the day. Eggs hatch in about 14 days, and young birds leave the cavity in about a month. Young birds will accompany adults for the first few weeks before they become independent.


Descending rattle: kekekekekekeke... A bit lower than Downy Woodpecker (but very similar).


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Sibley describing a clue for identification
  3. Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/56237 on 28 April 2020).
  4. Birdforum member observations
  5. Jackson, J. A., H. R. Ouellet, and B. J. Jackson (2020). Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.haiwoo.01

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.