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Hairy Woodpecker
Photo © Kim Hosen, suburban backyard, February 2008    

Hairy Woodpecker
Picoides villosus
Order - Piciformes; Family - Picidae

This medium-sized woodpecker, a forest dweller and permanent resident in Northern Virginia, is less frequently seen than the similar Downy Woodpecker.

About ten inches long, it is black with white spots and bars on the wings, and has white stripes on its head above and below the dark eye. Its throat and undersides, as well as its back and outer tailfeathers, are white. Adult males have a small red patch on the back of the head. Juveniles have a red patch on top.

The Hairy Woodpecker lives year-round in North American woodlands from Alaska and Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico and into Central America.

It feeds on insect larvae that it digs out of tree trunks, branches and logs with its long stout bill, but may come to suet, peanut butter or sunflower feeders in winter. Recently-killed trees are an important source of food for this species.

The male and female excavate a nesting hole in a dead tree or branch. Some birds may move somewhat farther south or to warmer areas nearby in winter.

Although the two species do not normally feed together, the Hairy Woodpecker may need to be distinguished from the very similar black and white Downy Woodpecker, which is a smaller bird with a short bill, and has black spots on the white tailfeathers.