The Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) is a medium-sized woodpecker, averaging approximately 250 mm (9.8 in) in length with a 380 mm (15 in) wingspan. Adults are mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white or pale back and white spotting on the wings; the throat and belly vary from white to sooty brown, depending on subspecies. There is a white bar above and one below the eye. They have a black tail with white outer feathers. Adult males have a red patch or two side-by-side patches on the back of the head; juvenile males have red or rarely orange-red on the crown.
The Hairy Woodpecker is virtually identical in plumage to the smaller Downy Woodpecker. The Downy has a shorter bill relative to the size of its head which is, other than size and voice, the best way to distinguish them in the field. One may identify the woodpecker by pik-call, counting one second between piks (a total of four must be heard). The best way to tell the two species apart other than the size is the lack of spots on its white tail feathers (which the Downy has). Their outward similarity is a spectacular example of convergent evolution. As to why this convergence has evolved, only tentative hypotheses have been advanced; in any case, due to the considerable size difference, ecological competition between the two species is rather slight. [Wikipedia]
The larger of two lookalikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. It wields a much longer bill than the Downy Woodpecker’s almost thorn-like bill. Hairy Woodpeckers have a somewhat soldierly look, with their erect, straight-backed posture on tree trunks and their cleanly striped heads. Look for them at backyard suet or sunflower feeders, and listen for them whinnying from woodlots, parks, and forests. [All About Birds]
Hairy Woodpecker Facts [All About Birds]
- Hairy and Downy woodpeckers occur together throughout most of their ranges. The Downy Woodpecker uses smaller branches while the Hairy Woodpecker tends to spend more time on trunks.
- Hairy Woodpeckers sometimes follow Pileated Woodpeckers, and sometimes appears when it hears the heavy sounds of a Pileated excavating. As the Pileated moves on, the Hairy Woodpecker investigates the deep holes, taking insects the Pileated missed.
- Hairy Woodpeckers sometimes drink sap leaking from wells in the bark made by sapsuckers. They’ve also been seen pecking into sugar cane to drink the sugary juice.
- The oldest recorded Hairy Woodpecker was a male, and at least 15 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in New York in 2010.