Hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus).


In Field Guide to Birds of North America, Kaufman reports that hairy woodpeckers are less common than the downy. This is true at my feeders. So far, I have seen one female hairy. That’s it.

Male hairy woodpeckers have a red mark on back of head. Females do not.


Hairy woodpeckers are a challenge to distinguish from downy woodpeckers. The hairy is bigger. It has a longer bill—the same length as the head, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a description that I found helpful in deciding which is which. The hairy lacks black spots along the tail, which the downy sports. So, larger bird, longer bill, no spots on tail.


As you can see, the hairy woodpeckers have stiff tail feathers, like the downy, for stabilization in acrobatic positions.

Hairy woodpeckers like seeds and suet, as this female proves. They also pry insects from trees with long, barbed tongues. A useful bird. I hope more of them will come to my feeders so I can practice my birdwatching skills in deciding the difference between the hairy and the downy.

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