Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker may be small in size, but they are very powerful when it comes to wood pecking capabilities. These birds mostly forage on the trunks and the main branches of trees.

About Hairy Woodpeckers

Hairy Woodpeckers have a very soldierly look as they have an erect straight-backed and sincere posture and a sharp and cleanly stripped head that looks like the common soldier haircut.

These birds are very widespread and are not very choosy when it comes to choosing their habitat. You can find these adaptable birds in almost every elevation; from the lowest sea levels to the highest of mountains.

Don’t these serious-looking birds with the strongest bills to even drill holes into the trunks and branches of trees seem very interesting? Let’s find out more about them!

● Hairy Woodpecker Photos, color pattern, song
● Hairy Woodpecker Size, eating behavior, habitat
● Hairy Woodpecker Range and migration, nesting


Hairy Woodpecker Color Pattern

Hairy Woodpeckers have a very beautiful and interesting color pattern. These birds are contrastingly black and white like a checkerboard. The black wings are checkered with white stripes and the head has two white stripes as well that run from the bill towards the back of the head. A large white patch also runs through the back and the underbelly
is completely white. The male birds also a red dot on the back of their heads. The eyes of Hairy Woodpeckers are black but have a very thin rim of white around them.

Description and Identification

Hairy Woodpeckers show a great variety in appearance based on their location. The color changes for the birds with the change of the region they live in even though they are all essentially from the same species.

The adult male birds from the west of the Rocky mountains have a fairly square head, with a chisel-like bill. Their wings are solid black in color. The belly is white and a white patch runs on the back. These birds have white stripes on the head and a red dot on the back of the head. The females are identical to the males but lack the red dot.

The adult males in the eastern side of the Rocky mountains have longer bills, wider stripes on their heads, and checkered wings with smooth tails. They also have a red dot on the back of their heads. The females too have a similar appearance but without the red dot.

The Pacific juveniles are brown and black instead of black and white. They are also a coffee color and have a prominent red crown. However, the Costa Rican juveniles that you can find in the western Panamas have cinnamon underparts with a red crown.

Hairy Woodpecker Song

The common calls of these birds include sharp “peek” notes that are similar to the Downy Woodpeckers but sound slightly lower in pitch. These birds also give a call that is similar to a rattle or a whinny.

Both male and female Hairy Woodpeckers drum in tree trunks all year round. This drumming is fast-paced and continues for around 1 second. The beat rate of the drumming can be up to 26 beats. This drumming is more of a method of communication rather than pecking a hole for a nest. The drumming can mean a call for danger, summoning a mate, soliciting mating, courtship, defending territory, or response to an intruder.

Hairy Woodpecker Size

These Woodpeckers are almost the size of a Robin. Relatively, these birds are one-third times larger than a Downy Woodpecker. Lengthwise, Hairy Woodpeckers measure up to 7.1-10.2 in (18-26 cm) and weigh around 1.4-3.4 oz (40-95 g) with a wingspan of 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm). The head of the bird is fairly small and round and the bill is the nearly same length as the head. The body is compact and the tail is medium-sized.

Hairy Woodpecker Behavior

Hairy Woodpeckers hitch up the tall trees along the main branches leaning backward on their stiff tail feathers and spring upwards with both feet. They forage in the bases of trees specifically the Ponderosa pine trees as these trees are mostly infested with beetles right at the base.

During conflicts, these birds hold their wings up, over their back at an angle of 45 degrees, and give a shrill cry. They sometimes do this in flight as well. Excited birds sometimes give a brr call as well.

Courting practices include chasing each other while circling tree trunks. The courting couples stretch out their necks, point their bills high, and bob their heads from side to side while flicking their wings and circling the tree trunk.

What do Hairy Woodpeckers Eat?

Almost 75% of Hairy Woodpeckers’ diet is insects, particularly the larvae of wood-boring beetles and bark beetles, ants, and moth pupae in their cocoons. These birds also eat bees, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, millipedes, and rarely cockroaches, crickets, and grasshoppers. When outbreaks of beetle infestation happen in pine forests, the population of beetle can reach up to billions. In such conditions, a large number of Hairy Woodpeckers come to that particular area to eat the soft larvae of the beetles.

Similar things happen in forests that have recently burned down and wood-boring beetles become abundant in number. In such cases, Hairy Woodpeckers achieve a great amount of nesting success.

Hairy Woodpeckers have helped in pest control by stopping moth outbreaks in orchards.

A little more than 20% of the birds’ diet is fruits and seeds. Thus, you can spot these Woodpeckers visiting bird feeders regularly to eat sunflower seeds and suet. You can also find these Woodpeckers drinking sap from the sap wells that Sapsuckers drill.

Hairy Woodpecker Habitat

Hairy Woodpeckers prefer larger, older trees thus they are found in mature woodlands. These birds can be found in coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forests generally up to 6500 feet elevations as well. They also occur in woodlots, suburbs, parks, and cemeteries. These birds have been also spotted in forest edges, around beaver ponds, in recently burned forests, southern swamps, open pine, oak, or birch woodlands, and orchards, which justifies their great adaptability towards habitats.

Range and Migration

Being highly adaptive towards habitats and having the capability to live in all elevations make these birds widespread. You can find these birds in almost any part of the North American Continent. Their Range includes Bahamas, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States. It is a vagrant to Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Although these birds are permanent residents and do not actually migrate, they still shift a little bit inside their breeding range. Hairy Woodpeckers shift southwards for their breeding seasons and also prefer lower elevations for nesting and child-rearing.

Hairy Woodpecker Lifecycle

They have a lifespan of 4-11 years in the wild. However, in captivity, these birds may even live for 15 years.

Male birds select the site for nesting and excavate a hole inside which the nest is built in. The female lays a clutch of 3-6 eggs which are white in color. These eggs are 0.8-1.0 in (2.1-2.5 cm) in length and 0.7-0.8 in (1.8-1.9 cm) in width. Both the parents incubate the eggs by taking turns for 11 to 12 days.

The hatchlings are naked with pink skin and have a sharp egg tooth at the tip of the bill. The eyes of the hatchlings are closed and they are behaviorally clumsy. Their nestling period is around 28 to 30 days. The brood size for Hairy Woodpeckers is usually 1.


The pairs start excavating a nest before 2 weeks of the actual egg-laying. Hairy Woodpeckers excavate their nest hole in the dead stub of a living tree with a heart rot or a dead tree. They prefer branches that aren’t perfectly vertical and they make the entrance in the downside to keep Sapsuckers and flying squirrels from taking over the hole.

The make excavates the hole and collects the material for the nest, which are usually just wood chips. Both the partners build the nest together. The entrance to the nest is about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide, leading to a cavity 8-12 inches deep. The inside widens at the bottom to make room for the eggs and the incubating bird. The nest is usually bare with just a bed of wood chips in the bottom for the eggs to be comfortably laid onto.

Anatomy of a Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized and are almost the size of a Robin. These birds have a fairly square head with a bill as long as the head. Their bills are quite strong because they use it to peck and drum wood. The bill differs in size depending upon the region that the bird is from. These birds have a compact body with pretty hairy plumage which is
why it has been given the name the Hairy Woodpecker. The legs of the bird are pretty strong as well as these birds have to hang on to trunks and branches almost vertically. Thus the feet too have curled toes and sharp nails for good grip.

Final Thoughts

Hairy Woodpeckers are widespread and they are pretty adaptive which makes them one of the most successful breeders and survivors. Thus these birds belong to a low concern population. Although they have a healthy population, it’s still concerning that the rapid fragmentation of large stretches of forests and their conversion to pastures may put these birds into a habitat crisis some years into the future. Like all the other species on Earth, these birds have also been affected by the effects of global warming but have managed to maintain their population around the world.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Hairy Woodpeckers

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Hairy Woodpeckers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Hairy Woodpecker Iron On Patches

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The Hairy Woodpecker is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. These patches are durable and can be sewn or ironed on to just about anything.

Hairy Woodpecker Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Hairy Woodpecker. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Hairy Woodpeckers

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses For Hairy Woodpeckers

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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