HAIRY WOODPECKER (Leuconotopicus villosus) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Hairy Woodpecker is black and white overall, and the male has two red patches at the back of the head. The head is black with white bars above and below the eye. The bird has a beige ‘mustache’ at the base of the bill.  The back is black with a white patch in the upper middle. The wings are black with white spots. The under parts are white. The tail is black and white. The eyes, bill and legs are black. The bill is about the same length as the head. Sexes are similar. This woodpecker is around 25 cm (9 inches) long.
NAME: The English name stems from this bird’s behavior to feed itself, and ‘hairy’ (as well as the Latin species name ‘villosus’) relates to its shaggy back plumage. The Latin genus name ‘Leuconotopicus’ is from Greek and loosely means ‘white’, ‘back’, and ‘woodpecker’.
HABITAT: Mature wooded areas.
DIET: Insects for the most part, especially wood-boring ones. Will also eat some berries and seeds, and is attracted to suet feeders (see photo below). Forage mainly on trees by turning over the bark and excavating dead wood for prey.
NESTING: This woodpecker species digs a cavity in a medium large tree in a wooded area to build its nest. An average of four white eggs are laid, which are incubated by both parents, but on ‘shifts’ – the female during the day, the male at night. Both parents feed the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: The hairy woodpecker is a year-round resident of Canada up to the tree line, and most of the USA including Alaska (up to the tree line in that state).
ON PEI: This woodpecker breeds on Prince Edward Island and is found year-round, but it is less common than the Downy Woodpecker.
CONSERVATION: Currently the population of hairy woodpeckers appears healthy and it is not considered at risk. However it is vulnerable to fragmentation of large forests due to logging for example.
NOTES: Hairy woodpeckers help fight forest infestations by wood-boring beetles, notably following forest fires. They then appear in large numbers in those areas.
In order to provide them maximum efficiency when foraging for food onto the wood of trees, woodpeckers’ heads are aligned at a 90 degree angle with their body, just like a hammer shape. Their brains are also protected from the impacts with a thicker skull.
As with many other woodpeckers species, the hairy woodpecker has two forward and two backward toes, which allows better grip when climbing vertically on tree trunks. In addition, the tail feathers have stiff ends to provide more support.
Drumming: A behavior that is unique to the woodpeckers including this one, is their drumming on metal surfaces (preferably) for territorial and courtship purposes, and the louder the better. The drumming can then be heard from a good distance. Woodpeckers will not shy away from drumming on buildings, on hollow metal parts, for example, that brings them a good loud sound. For more information on drumming, you can click here.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Downy Woodpecker – This species is VERY similar to the hairy woodpecker. Here’s an article that can help distinguish between the two species (and another one here). In spite of their similarity, these two species are NOT closely related and belong to two different genera. They also have overlapping territories.
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
American Bird Conservancy (Hairy Woodpecker) (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Hairy woodpecker male, Dec. 2005, by Mdf
Hairy woodpecker, Mdf
Hairy Woodpecker – Summerside, PEI – Feb. 28, 2018 – Roberta Palmer
Hairy woodpecker, PEI, Roberta Palmer
Hairy Woodpecker drumming on power pole – Winsloe South, PEI – Mar. 30, 2013 – by Don Jardine
Hairy woodpecker drumming, Don Jardine