The Hairy Woodpecker - A Downy Look A Like

Description What They Look Like

The Hairy Woodpecker is very similar to the Downy in appearance. A white back and white underparts and black wings with white spots.

And like the Downy, males have the same red on the back nape. While the females have no red.

The difference is their size. The Hairy is about 2 inches longer. Measuring about 8 1/2 to 10 inches in length. The birds bill is almost as long as the head whereas, the Downy's bill is only about half as long as its head.

The upperparts are black and white; face with black and white stripes and the underparts are pure white. The male has a red patch at the nape whereas the female has no red patch.

Hairy Woodpecker Feeding on Suet

These birds can be found in mature forest, orchards, and parks. One of the most widespread of North American birds.

Hairy Woodpecker Call

Mating Breeding Habits

These birds have a slow courtship that begins in deep winter.

The male begins drumming on a favorite post to announce that he has set up his territory and to attract any females in the area for mating.

An interested female will drum back to announce her presence.

When they approach one another, usually after days or weeks of drumming, they perform special flight displays.

The birds will strike their wings against their sides to produce a clapping sound, or flutter their wings like butterflies, seeming to almost hover in the air.

After the pair bond is formed, the two mate and begin nesting. The peak of the breeding season is in April and May and nesting may go into July.

female hairy woodpecker

During the breeding season you'll find these birds in heavily forested areas.

They can also be found in heavily wooded residential areas along with cemeteries that have many mature trees.

Hairy Woodpecker Nesting Habits

Excavating a cavity in a tree anywhere from 3 to 55 feet above ground. Excavation of nest site can take 1 - 3 weeks.

The female lays from 3 to 6 white eggs laid on a bed of wood chips. Both male and female incubate the eggs and share brooding of the young.

The male sits on the eggs and broods the young during the night and the female relieves him every morning after sunrise. They alternate these duties throughout the day.

Incubation last about 11-12 days and the young leave the nest in about 28-30 days after hatching.

Will make use of properly constructed bird houses

The nest is excavated in either dead snags or live trees provided there is heartrot. Habitat size requirements vary depending on the type of habitat available.

Dense areas will hold more bird pairs than more open areas.

Feeding Habits What They Eat

Female Hairy Woodpecker Gleaning Insects From Tree

Hairy Woodpeckers feed on wood-boring insects, berries, and seeds.

At your backyard feeders the Hairy Woodpecker can be attracted by offering black-oil sunflower seeds and especially suet.


Predators of audult birds include: Great-horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, Northern Goshawk, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks.

Predators at the nest site include: House Sparrow, European Starling, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Rat snakes prey on eggs and young.

See Also: Look A Like Downy Woodpecker

Attract More Woodpeckers With These Great Products
Attract More Woodpeckers With These Products

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