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Birding Business

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This month’s bird

The Hairy Woodpecker

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So what do you think?   Is the bird on the home page really a Hairy Woodpecker? Or could it be the very similar Downy Woodpecker?

Both species are wide-spread and common to fairly common.  The Hairy is typically less common in the south.

Both species will visit feeders.

The males in both species have a red spot on the back of the head, missing in the females of both species.

Images of both species are shown below.  So how do you tell them apart?

  • The Hairy is larger, but it can be hard to tell if not near an object of known size, like a Downy Woodpecker.
  • The bill of the Hairy Woodpecker is larger than that of the Downy. It's length is about the same as the width of it's head.  The Downy's is much shorter.
  • The Downy Woodpecker usually has dark spots on the outside of the white tail feathers.  The Hairy Woodpecker usually does not.
  • Hairy Woodpeckers in the Pacific Northwest are browner.
  • The calls of the two species are similar, but I find the Hairy's call is stronger and more strident.
  • From a behavior standpoint, the Sibley Guide to Birds notes that Downy Woodpeckers are small and light enough to perch and feed on the seed heads of weeds, while Hairy's are too heavy.

 

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker - © Greg Lavaty

 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker - note black spots on the tail feathers.
© Greg Lavaty

 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker without tail spots. © Greg Lavaty

 

So, is the image of the bird on the home page a Hairy or Downy Woodpecker?  You be the judge.

You can learn more about each species, and hear their calls, on the Birdzilla.com web site.

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker