Funny name for an animal with feathers isn't it? The Hairy Woodpecker doesn't have any hair, just long feathers along it's large beak. This woodpecker is the classic black and white woodpecker the the male sporting a jaunty red cap in the back of it's head and the female with no red spot. Hairy Woodpeckers are very common, ranging across most of North American as far south as the Bahamas. They forage for insects, nuts, seeds, berries and have even been observed eating tree sap.
There is another woodpecker, called the Downy Woodpecker, that many mistake for the Hairy Woodpecker. They look almost identical and many people use Hairy and Downy Woodpecker as interchangeable names. But they are in fact, quite different birds. The easiest way to tell them apart is by size. The Hairy Woodpecker is much larger than the Downy Woodpecker so if you have two woodpeckers next to each other, it's an easy identification. If you just see the one woodpecker species, it's helpful to remember that the Hairy Woodpecker is about the size of a Grosbeak or Cardinal while the Downy Woodpecker is more the size of a large sparrow. A helpful way to remember the size difference is that the Downy is a "downsized" version of the Hairy Woodpecker.
There is one other significant difference between the two birds. Hairy Woodpeckers have a much longer and thicker beak than their cousins the Downy Woodpecker. So if you spot a woodpecker with a thick beak about half the length of it's head, it's a Hairy Woodpecker.
These birds are common at not only suet feeders but also regular bird feeders so if you see a flash of crisp black and white, look closer and see if it's a Hairy or a Downy Woodpecker.