The Hairy Woodpecker looks very much like its cousin the Downy Woodpecker, but it is just a bit smaller than a Blue Jay, while the Downy is closer to sparrow-sized. Another major difference is that the Hairy’s beak is as long as its head and dagger-shaped; the Downy’s beak is proportionally shorter and more thorn-shaped. Both woodpeckers are vivid black and white patterned: white on chest, black and white on head and wings, and a long white stripe down the back. In both cases, males have a red spot on the nape and females do not.
The Hairy Woodpecker primarily eats insects, year-round. Only about 25% of its diet is seeds – although in recent decades as it has frequented feeders it has learned to eat suet and open sunflower seeds. Its favorite foraging spots are trees that harbor wood-boring insects. The bird uses its beak to drill into the wood, first to hear if there is a hollow insect-made tunnel beneath the bark, then to chip away the wood to get at the beetle or grub. Its barbed tongue is a big help for extracting insect food. The Hairy Woodpecker also uses its powerful beak to excavate cavities for nesting, also in trees. Its vocalizations consist of various squeaks, rattles, and drumming. This last serves many purposes (establishing territory, communicating) and is often heard at SBG.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, nesting sites. There are decaying trees and snags in the wooded area that lines the habitat. Probably bird feeders in the adjacent neighborhoods also attract Hairy Woodpeckers which then find their way to SBG.
When can I see it?
Year-round. The Hairy Woodpecker is non-migratory.