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Hairy Woodpecker

Dryobates villosus

Length: 8.5 to 10.5 inches Wingspan: 15 to 18 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Size, bill nearly as long as head is deep, white outer tail feathers lacking spots, bold call

Hairy Woodpecker - Dryobates villosus The Hairy Woodpecker is very similar to the Downy Woodpecker, which has a smaller size and shorter bill.  The Hairy Woodpecker tends to be less common, shyer, and more restricted to areas with large trees than it's smaller cousin.  Both are permanent residents in South Dakota.  Males (pictured at the right) have a red patch on the back of their heads, while females do not.


Will use a wide variety of habitats including forests, woodlands, residential areas, and riparian areas, but typically requires large trees to be present. 


Mostly insects. Also eats some seeds and berries, as well as nuts and suet at feeders. 


Actively forages on the trunks and branches of trees.  They will also sometimes forage in bushes and other vegetation.  They are much more likely to excavate and peel bark from trees than are the smaller Downy Woodpeckers. Hairy Woodpeckers are also sometimes opportunists, taking advantage of other woodpecker species. They have frequently been observed visiting sap wells from various Sapsucker species (several Sapsucker species are found across their range), and both drinking sap and capturing the insects stuck in the sap. They also have been observed following Pileated Woodpeckers, searching through recently flaked off bark and excavation holes in trees in search of insects the Pileated Woodpecker may have missed.


The nest of a Hairy Woodpecker is a cavity excated in a tree, made by both the male and female.  The female lays between 3 and 6 eggs, with the male incubating the eggs at night and the female incubating them during the day.  The eggs hatch in about 2 weeks, with both parents helping to feed the young.  The young fledge after about 4 weeks, but the parents continue to feed them for a time after fledging,


The most frequent vocalization of a Hairy Woodpecker is a sharp peek call. They also have a dry rattling call, and drumming sounds. Less often a kweek call is given.


Generally a permanent resident throughout its range, although there are indications that some birds at the far northern edge of the range may move south in the winter.

Interactive eBird Map:

 Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Hairy Woodpecker sightings

Similar Species:

Hairy Woodpeckers are extremely similar in appearance to Downy Woodpeckers, but could also potentially be confused with other woodpecker species:

Downy Woodpecker - Dryobates pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Dryobates pubescens Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 28 - Sphyrapicus varius Red-naped Sapsucker 1 - Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Downy Woodpecker Downy Woodpecker Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Red-naped Sapsucker

Bird Feeder:

Sunflower seeds, nuts, suet, peanut butter.

Conservation Status:

Widely distributed and common, but numbers are likely below historical levels in many areas due to loss of habitat. However, systematic surveys over the last few decades indicate modest increases in populations. The IUCN considers the Hairy Woodpecker to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

 February 4th, 2006 - Perry Nature Area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Hairy Woodpecker photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Hairy Woodpecker - Dryobates villosus - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident throughout the state.

Additional Hairy Woodpecker Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Hairy Woodpecker 1 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 2 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 3 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 4 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 5 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 6 - Leuconotopicus villosusHairy Woodpecker 7 - Leuconotopicus villosus