Hairy woodpecker

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Hairy woodpecker
Male, eastern subspecies septentrionalis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Leuconotopicus
L. villosus
Binomial name
Leuconotopicus villosus
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Picoides villosus map.svg
  • Picus villosus Linnaeus, 1766
  • Dryobates villosus (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Picoides villosus (Linnaeus, 1766)

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.[2] With an estimated population in 2003 of over nine million individuals, the hairy woodpecker is listed by the IUCN as a species of least concern in North America.[3] Some taxonomic authorities, including the American Ornithological Society, continue to place this species in the genus Picoides, while others place it in Dryobates.[4]


The hairy woodpecker inhabits mature deciduous forests[2][5] in the Bahamas, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States.[3] Mating pairs will excavate a hole in a tree, where they will lay, on average, four white eggs.[5]


Female of the Great Basin race, orius, which has less white on the wings than eastern races and has cream-colored underparts

Adults are mainly black on the upper parts 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.[6]

The hairy woodpecker measures from 18–26 cm (7.1–10.2 in) in length, 33–43 cm (13–17 in) in wingspan and 40–95 g (1.4–3.4 oz) in weight.[7][8] It 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. These two species are not closely related, however, and are likely to be separated in different genera.[9][10] Another way to tell the two species apart is the lack of spots on its white tail feathers (present in the downy). Their outward similarity is a spectacular example of convergent evolution. As to the reason for this convergence, only tentative hypotheses have been advanced; in any case, because of the considerable size difference, ecological competition between the two species is slight.

These birds are mostly permanent residents. Birds in the extreme north may migrate further south; birds in mountainous areas may move to lower elevations.

These birds forage on trees, often turning over bark or excavating to uncover insects. They mainly eat insects, but also fruits, berries and nuts, as well as sometimes tree sap. They are a natural predator of the European corn borer, a moth that costs the US agriculture industry more than $1 billion annually in crop losses and population control.[11][12] They are also known to peck at wooden window frames and wood-sided homes that may house prey.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Leuconotopicus villosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22681166A92895449. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22681166A92895449.en.
  2. ^ a b Sibley, David Allen (2003). The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. p. 249. ISBN 0-679-45120-X.
  3. ^ a b "Leuconotopicus villosus". International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  4. ^ "Picoides villosus (Hairy Woodpecker) - Avibase". Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  5. ^ a b Bull, John; Farrand Jr, John (August 1994) [1977]. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds:Eastern region (2nd ed.). Chanticleer Press. p. 573. ISBN 0-679-42852-6.
  6. ^ Jackson, Jerome A., Henri R. Ouellet, & Bette J. Jackson (2002): Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online 2009-3-20 doi:10.2173/bna.702 (registration required)
  7. ^ Hairy Woodpecker, All About Birds.
  8. ^ Hairy Woodpecker, Bird Fellow
  9. ^ Weibel, Amy C. & Moore, William S. (2005): Plumage convergence in Picoides woodpeckers based on a molecular phylogeny, with emphasis on convergence in downy and hairy woodpeckers. Condor 107(4): 797–809. doi:10.1650/7858.1 (HTML abstract)
  10. ^ Moore, William S.; Weibel, Amy C. & Agius, Andrea (2006): Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of the woodpecker genus Veniliornis (Picidae, Picinae) and related genera implies convergent evolution of plumage patterns. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 87: 611–624. PDF fulltext
  11. ^ "The European Corn Borer | The European Corn Borer". Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  12. ^ "European corn borer - Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner)". Retrieved 2017-11-13.

External links[edit]