Nature Journal
with Photos

          
Hairy Woodpecker Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
 
General Information
- Medium-sized black and white woodpecker
- Fairly long bill
- Mostly black head set off by broad white supercilium
  and lower border to auriculars
- Black nape
- White back
- Black wings with white spotting on coverts and flight
  feathers
- White underparts
- Black rump
- Black tail with white outer tail feathers
- Significant racial variation can result in juveniles with
  barred outer tail feathers (Queen Charlotte Islands),
  juveniles with barred backs and flanks (Maritime
  provinces) and birds with brown feathering replacing
  the black (Pacific Northwest).

Adult male
- Red spot at rear of head

Similar species
Other black and white woodpeckers such as Ladder-backed, Strickland's, Red-cockaded and Nuttall's have shorter bills, barred backs, and patterning on the chests. Black-backed woodpecker is easily distinguished by the darker face, black back, and barred flanks. Three-toed Woodpecker is best distinguished by the darker face and barred flanks, since some races can have white backs.

In the Maritimes juvenile Hairy Woodpeckers can more closely resemble Three-toed Woodpeckers and it is best to concentrate on differences in facial pattern and bill size when identifying birds in this area. Similarly, juvenile Hairy Woodpeckers on the Queen Charlotte Islands can have barred outer tail feathers and such birds should be carefully separated from Downy Woodpeckers by their larger size and larger bills. Downy Woodpecker is most similar, and differs only in its smaller size, proportionally smaller bill, barred outer tail feathers, and different call.

 
 
Return to Hairy Woodpecker page