Hairy woodpecker

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

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.


The hairy woodpecker inhabits mature deciduous forests[2][4] 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 tend to, on average, lay four white eggs.[4]


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.[5]

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.[6][7] 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. One may identify the woodpecker by pik-call, counting one second between piks(a total of four must be heard). The rattle-call is short burst of the same sound, while DOWO resembles a bouncing ball.The drum sound might be used to identify the bird. It sounds similar to five taps.[8] These two species are not closely related, however, and are likely to be separated in different genera.[9][10] 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.

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, also fruits, berries and nuts, 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 bugs.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Leuconotopicus villosus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22681166A92895449. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22681166A92895449.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018. 
  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. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Hairy Woodpecker, All About Birds.
  7. ^ Hairy Woodpecker, Bird Fellow
  8. ^ Oklahoma City Community College, Cornell
  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]