Hairy WoodpeckerPicoides villosus

adult male, Interior West
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult female, Interior West
Spike Baker/VIREO
adult female, Pacific
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
adult male, Eastern
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult male, Eastern
Frank Schleicher/VIREO
adult male, Pacific
Glenn Bartley/VIREO

Family

Description

This species and the Downy Woodpecker are remarkably similar in pattern, differing mainly in size and bill shape. They often occur together, but the Hairy, a larger bird, requires larger trees; it is usually less common, especially in the east, and less likely to show up in suburbs and city parks. In its feeding it does more pounding and excavating in trees than most smaller woodpeckers, consuming large numbers of wood-boring insects.

Habitat

Forests, woodlands, river groves, shade trees. Accepts wide variety of habitats so long as large trees present; found in deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forest, groves along rivers in prairie country, open juniper woodland, swamps. In southwest and from Mexico to Panama found in mountain forests, mostly of pine, but also in cloud forest in Central America.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds especially on larvae of wood-boring beetles, also other beetles, ants, caterpillars, and others. Also eats some berries, seeds, nuts. Will feed on sap at damaged trees or at sapsucker workings, and will come to bird feeders for suet.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mainly on the trunks and limbs of trees, sometimes on vines, shrubs. Energetic in its search, often probing, scaling off bark, and excavating into dead wood in pursuit of insects. Males may forage more deliberately than females, working longer in one spot.

Nesting

Male and female may maintain separate territories in early winter, pairing up in mid-winter, often with mate from previous year. Female's winter territory becomes focus of nesting territory. Courtship includes both birds drumming in duet; ritualized tapping at symbolic nest sites by female. Nest site is cavity (excavated by both sexes), mainly in deciduous trees in east, in aspens or dead conifers in west. Cavity usually 4-60' above ground. Eggs: 4, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night, female most of day), about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Male may forage farther from nest, making fewer feeding trips with more food each time. Young leave nest 28-30 days after hatching, are fed by parents for some time afterward. 1 brood per year.

Eggs

4, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night, female most of day), about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Male may forage farther from nest, making fewer feeding trips with more food each time. Young leave nest 28-30 days after hatching, are fed by parents for some time afterward. 1 brood per year.

Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Male may forage farther from nest, making fewer feeding trips with more food each time. Young leave nest 28-30 days after hatching, are fed by parents for some time afterward. 1 brood per year.

Conservation

Although still very widespread and fairly common, thought to have declined from historical levels in many areas. Loss of nesting sites (with cutting of dead snags in forest) is one potential problem. Starlings and House Sparrows may sometimes take over freshly excavated nest cavities.

Range

Mostly a permanent resident. Some birds from northern edge of range may move well south in winter, and a few from western mountains move to lower elevations.

Listen

drums
tweek & sputters #1
tweeks
begging young & adult calls at nest
interaction calls
tweeks & sputters #2

Similar Species

Black-backed Woodpecker

Generally uncommon, but not so quiet or inconspicuous as the American Three-toed Woodpecker. Where the two species are found together, the Black-backed usually dominates, perhaps driving the Three-toed away from choice feeding or nesting areas.

adult male

Arizona Woodpecker

A brown-backed woodpecker of oak woodland, living in mountains near the Mexican border, mainly in southeastern Arizona. Foraging quietly at mid-levels in the oaks, it is often easy to overlook. Much of its behavior is like that of the Hairy Woodpecker, but it is quieter, often forages lower in the trees, and does not dig as deeply into dead wood for insects.

adult male

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Once fairly common in the southeastern United States, this bird is now rare, local, and considered an endangered species. It requires precise conditions within mature pine forest, a habitat that is now scarce. Lives in isolated clans, each clan an extended family group, with one pair of adults assisted in their nesting by up to four additional birds. The red cockade for which the bird is named, a small patch of feathers behind the eye of the male, is usually hard to see in the field.

adult male

Nuttall's Woodpecker

A California specialty, Nuttall's Woodpecker extends only a short distance into Baja and rarely strays to Oregon. Within its limited range, it is often common wherever oak trees grow. It may go unseen at times because of its habit of foraging among densely foliaged oaks, but it frequently announces itself with sharp calls. Despite its close association with oaks, it tends to dig its nesting holes in other kinds of trees, and it eats only small numbers of acorns.

adult male, Eastern

Downy Woodpecker

The smallest woodpecker in North America, common and widespread, although it avoids the arid southwest. In the east this is the most familiar member of the family, readily entering towns and city parks, coming to backyard bird feeders. Its small size makes it versatile, and it may forage on weed stalks as well as in large trees. In winter it often joins roving mixed flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, and other birds in the woods.

adult male

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A small woodpecker of arid country. Because of its size, it is able to make a living even in scrubby growth along dry washes (other desert woodpeckers, like Gila Woodpecker and Gilded Flicker, require giant cactus or larger trees for nest sites). Closely related to Nuttall's Woodpecker of the Pacific Coast; their ranges meet in California foothills, and they sometimes interbreed there.

adult male

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Often quiet and inconspicuous, and may perch motionless against a tree trunk for minutes at a time, making it easy to overlook. In some places the Three-toed Woodpecker provides the most effective control of the spruce bark beetle, a major forest pest.

Vireo

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