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Meet Hairy Woodpecker


Hairy Woodpecker

Amidst all of the North American woodpeckers found in Michigan, the Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) emerges as a captivating and resilient species. With its distinctive appearance, this woodland dweller enchants bird enthusiasts and nature admirers alike.


Distinctive Appearance and Features

The Hairy Woodpecker sports a black-and-white plumage, resembling a larger version of the Downy Woodpecker, with whom it shares several similarities. However, the Hairy Woodpecker distinguishes itself with its larger size, measuring about 9-10 inches in length, and its noticeably longer bill. The males flaunt a red patch on the back of their heads, adding a touch of vibrancy to their appearance.


These adaptable woodpeckers inhabit a wide range of wooded environments, including deciduous and mixed forests, woodlots, parks, and suburban areas across North America. From the boreal forests of Canada to the southern regions of the United States, they thrive in habitats rich in trees and deadwood, providing ample opportunities for foraging and nesting.


Hairy Woodpeckers are skilled foragers, primarily feeding on insects like wood-boring beetles, ants, caterpillars, and spiders found beneath the bark of trees. They also relish seeds and nuts, displaying a versatile diet. Their adeptness at excavating cavities in search of food showcases their adaptability and resourcefulness in securing sustenance.


During the breeding season, typically from April to July, these woodpeckers excavate cavities in trees for nesting. They prefer dead or decaying trees, where they construct their nests using their sturdy bills. Both male and female Hairy Woodpeckers partake in excavating the nest cavity and caring for their young until they fledge.


Tips for Spotting Hairy Woodpeckers

  • Listen for Drumming Sounds: Their rapid drumming on tree trunks serves as territorial displays and can guide you to their presence.

  • Observe Tree Trunks: Look for their distinctive foraging behavior, characterized by probing and excavating for insects beneath the bark.

  • Explore Wooded Habitats: Venture into mixed woodlands, parks, and suburban areas with mature trees to increase your chances of spotting these woodpeckers.


The next time you venture into forests or wooded landscapes, keep a watchful eye out for the enchanting Hairy Woodpecker. You'll also find them at most winter birdfeeders, especially if you provide suet for them.

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