Hairy Woodpecker

Leuconotopicus villosus

Last updated: September 5, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit K Quinn Ferris/Shutterstock.com

They are natural pest controls

Hairy Woodpecker Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Piciformes
Family
Picidae
Genus
Leuconotopicus
Scientific Name
Leuconotopicus villosus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Hairy Woodpecker Conservation Status

Hairy Woodpecker Locations

Hairy Woodpecker Locations

Hairy Woodpecker Facts

Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
  • Pair
Fun Fact
They are natural pest controls
Estimated Population Size
8.9 million
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Bold pattern
Wingspan
13 to 16 inches
Incubation Period
14 days
Age Of Fledgling
28 to 30 days
Habitat
Mature forests
Diet
Insectivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Favorite Food
Ants and beetle larvae
Type
Bird
Common Name
Hairy woodpecker
Number Of Species
17
Location
North America
Nesting Location
Holes in the undersides of tree limbs
Age of Molting
14 months

Hairy Woodpecker Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
15 years
Weight
1.4 to 3.4 ounces
Length
7 to 10 inches

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Listen for their energetic tapping noises.

The hairy woodpecker is a small, robust bird that produces explosive calls and energetic tapping noises. You will often find them busily foraging the branches of large trees and can quickly spot them by their sounds and bold black and white patterns. These birds are endemic to North America, where they live year-round. Discover all the fascinating facts about the hairy woodpecker, including where they live and how to find them!

5 Amazing Hairy Woodpecker Facts

  1. The hairy woodpecker spends most of its time on the trunks of large trees.
  2. They follow the pileated woodpecker, wait for it to excavate, then take the insects it left behind.
  3. These birds like to forage on stands infested with bark beetles.
  4. The hairy woodpecker is less likely to appear in city parks and suburbs than other woodpeckers.
  5. Their courtship includes ritualized tapping duets.

Where to Find the Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers are native year-round residents of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. They primarily inhabit mature forests with large trees. Still, they will settle for most environments with tall trees like river groves, juniper woodlands, swamps, pine mountain forests, and Central American cloud forests. You may also spot them in suburban parks, cemeteries, beaver ponds, and orchards. To find them, scan the trunks or main branches of big trees, look for their black and white patterns, and listen for their enthusiastic tapping.

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Countries:

  1. Bahamas
  2. Canada
  3. Costa Rica
  4. El Salvador
  5. Guatemala
  6. Honduras
  7. Mexico
  8. Nicaragua
  9. Panama
  10.  Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  11. United States
  12. Puerto Rico
  13. Turks and Caicos Islands

Hairy Woodpecker Nests

Woodpeckers excavate their nesting holes in the dead stubs of trees, with the entrance hole typically on the underside, which aids in keeping out sap and flying squirrels. The entrance is approximately two inches tall and 1.5 inches wide, with a cavity 8 to 12 inches deep. The bottom of the inside is wider to allow enough room for eggs and the incubating bird. The pit is bare except for some wood chips placed on the floor.

Scientific Name

The Hairy Woodpecker’s scientific name is Leuconotopicus villosus. Leuconotopicus is a genus of woodpeckers in the family Picidae. The epithet Villosus is Latin for “hairy” or “shaggy” and refers to the unusual plumage on the hairy woodpecker’s back. There are 17 recognized subspecies of this woodpecker.

Size, Appearance, and Behavior

The hairy woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker, slightly large than a downy woodpecker. They have square heads, long bills, and long tail feathers. This bird is white underneath with a black back, wings, and tail feathers. The wings feature white checkered spots, and the head has two white stripes with a bright red patch on the back of the head in males. Its signature plumage includes a long white patch on its back. Hairy woodpeckers don’t necessarily mate for life, but they do perform courtship displays, such as duet pecking, making shrill sounds, and chasing each other around trees.

A hairy woodpecker in the snow
Hairy woodpeckers have white bellies, with black backs, wings with a checkered pattern, and tail feathers.

sandymsj/Shutterstock.com

Migration Pattern and Timing

Hairy woodpeckers are not migratory and take up year-round residence in their preferred environments. However, those in northern populations may wander slightly south, and birds in inland habitats might find their way towards the coast during winter. Woodpeckers that inhabit mountainous regions will travel to lower elevations during the colder months.

Diet

Hairy woodpeckers are insectivores and will take advantage of overabundant pest populations.

What Does the Hairy Woodpecker Eat?

Most of this woodpecker’s diet consists of insects, which it finds by foraging on trees, turning over bark, and excavating holes. The hairy woodpecker’s favorite food is ants, beetle larvae, and moth pupae. They will also eat spiders, caterpillars, bees, wasps, crickets, millipedes, and grasshoppers. Woodpeckers are an excellent resource for controlling pests. They often move into infested areas, take residence, and eat all the critters. They are especially fond of bark beetles in live trees, wood-boring beetles in burnt forests, and coddling moths in orchards. 

The hairy woodpecker is a natural predator of the European corn borer, a moth that costs the US agricultural industry over $1 billion annually. About 20% of their diet comes from berries, trees, nuts, and sap. These woodpeckers also frequent backyard bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds and suet.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the hairy woodpecker as “least concern.” They have an increasing population and an extensive range. However, these birds are susceptible to forest fragmentation, especially giant trees in mature forests. While officials are not actively monitoring their habitats, they have in-place land and water protection.

What Eats the Hairy Woodpecker?

Hairy woodpeckers can fall victim to birds of prey like owls and hawks and ground animals such as bobcats, foxes, coyotes, badgers, and opossums. When they are about to be attacked, these woodpeckers will hold a frozen pose with their head, and bill pointed straight and their wings spread out horizontally. They may begin to move around the tree with their wings spread out, pecking assiduously at the bark.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Males and females maintain separate territories outside the breeding season, but once it begins, they settle into the female’s territory and perform ritualized tapping at the nest site. Females lay three to six eggs. Both sexes perform incubation, with males incubating at night and females during the day. The chicks hatch after 14 days, and both parents feed them. The young leave the nest 28 to 30 days after hatching but are cared for by their parents for some time. Young hairy woodpeckers go through their first molt around 14 months and then annually after that.

Population

The IUCN estimates the hairy woodpecker population to be around 8.9 million mature individuals. Their numbers have increased by 6% over the last decade and continue to trend upward.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Hairy Woodpecker FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does the hairy woodpecker migrate?

These woodpeckers are year-round residents in their environments. However, some may occasionally wander away from their homes during the winter.

How many eggs does the hairy woodpecker lay?

Their clutch size includes three to six eggs.

How fast does the hairy woodpecker fly?

It’s unknown how fast they fly, but they can drum 25 taps per second on wood.

What is the hairy woodpecker’s wingspan?

Their wingspan is between 13 and 16 inches.

When do hairy woodpeckers leave the nest?

The young leave the nest around 30 days after hatching, but their parents still care for them for some time.

How do you find hairy woodpeckers

Listen for their energetic tapping and look for their bold patterning on the tree trunks of large trees.

What time of year is best for finding the hairy woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are the most active in spring during the breeding season. Look for these birds in late April and May around tree trunks.

How big is the hairy woodpecker?

They typically grow between 7 and 10 inches, slightly bigger than a downy woodpecker.

How much does the hairy woodpecker weigh?

The hairy woodpecker weighs 1.4 to 3.4 ounces.

What color is the hairy woodpecker?

These birds have bold black and white patterns. Males have a patch of red on the back of their heads.

When does the hairy woodpecker nest?

Their peak breeding season is April and May and can run through July.

When does the hairy woodpecker migrate?

The hairy woodpecker does not migrate; they are year-round residents in their environments. However, some move to lower elevations during winter.

What does the hairy woodpecker eat?

Most of its diet is made of insects, while around 20% consists of fruit and seeds.

What eats the hairy woodpecker?

Hairy woodpeckers are a food source for hawks, owls, and other predators.

What threatens the hairy woodpecker?

Its main threat is forest fragmentation, particularly the loss of large trees from mature forests.

What is a hairy woodpecker baby called?

Woodpecker babies are called “chicks.”

How long does the hairy woodpecker live?

Hairy woodpeckers can live between 4 and 11 years. Those in captivity have a lifespan of up to 15 years.

How does the hairy woodpecker mate?

In deep winter, males drum on their posts to let females know they have a territory prepared. Interested females will drum back.

Sources
  1. IUCN Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22681166/141046523
  2. Wildlife Online Library, Available here: https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2193/0022-541X(2006)70[1379:HWWEIP]2.0.CO;2
  3. JSTOR, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4158365
  4. JSTOR, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3800477
  5. Academic OUP, Available here: https://academic.oup.com/condor/article/101/1/86/5126013
  6. Searchable Ornithological Research Archive , Available here: https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/wilson/v081n02/p0169-p0183.pdf

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