About The Hairy Woodpecker

The most familiar and widespread resident woodpecker in North America is the Hairy Woodpecker. It is primarily a forest bird that prefers to live in dead trees. This bird is about 7 and 13 inches long. It is a black and white bird with a sturdy bill as long as its head. Its back is almost entirely black and its wings covered with black and white feathers. Its forehead, nape and tail are black. The male has a red patch on its nape while the female has a black patch of feathers on the back of its head.

The Hairy Woodpecker Nesting Preferences

Hairy Woodpeckers prefer to excavate nesting cavities in deciduous trees. They build their nests in both open and dense woodlands although they favor mature trees with large branches. The male chooses the nest site but both sexes excavate the nest hole. The nest is lined with wood chips. Three to six glossy white eggs are laid per clutch. The female incubates the eggs during the day while the male takes his turn at night. Incubation lasts for 11 to 15 days and the nestlings fledge after 28 to 30 days. Each pair of Hairy Woodpeckers usually raises one brood annually.

Building a Birdhouse For The Hairy Woodpecker

A suitable birdhouse for a Hairy Woodpecker has a 1 ½ inch entrance hole and a hole height above the floor of 8-12 inches. The interior floor dimension is 6 inches in width x 6 inches in length x 12-15 inches in height. The birdhouse should be mounted 8-20 feet above the ground preferably on a tree in a forest, forest openings and edges or groves.

The Hairy Woodpecker Mating Habits

Hairy Woodpeckers are monogamous. Breeding pairs from previous seasons often re-pair. Breeding happens two to three months before nesting. In some regions, females choose their territories. They usually attract males by drumming. Once a pair bond is formed, both sexes drum.

The Hairy Woodpecker Feeding Habits

The main foods of the Hairy Woodpeckers are the bark and wood boring beetle larvae found in dead trees. They also eat insects such as ants, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and flies. To catch insects, they would religiously tap and probe at the bark of a tree sometimes excavating deep into the bark. In some instances, when leaves are budding, they will peck and tear at the buds to catch the hidden insects. At times, they eat nuts and some fruits. They frequent backyard feeders for seeds and suets. Foraging occurs on trees, vines, sugar canes, rotting branches and other remains on the ground.

Interesting Hairy Woodpecker Facts

There are 14 recognized races of Hairy Woodpeckers in North America distinguished by their size, color and amount of white on their wings. Across North America, they can be found at a variety of elevations from sea level to high in the mountains. They find their food by feeling the vibrations made by insects moving about. They can “hear” the insects under the barks of the trees. They have long tongues covered with sticky substances which make insects easily stick to their tongues. They use their chisel-like beaks like a crowbar to remove bark from the sides of trees and to drill for their food.