Hairy Woodpecker

Hey guys, welcome back! Today, the Hairy Woodpecker. And as you can see here, they look pretty much identical to the Downy Woodpecker. So how the heck do you tell the two apart? I mean, they have nearly the same range, and plumage! A closer look reveals one way to tell, the beak. The Hairy has a noticeably longer bill than the Downy. The Hairy is also larger. Like its lookalike, the male Hairy has a small red spot on the back of its head. If you’re in the Rocky Mountains, it’s a little easier, as the Hairy Woodpecker population out there have nearly solid black wings.

Despite having similar ranges, plumage, and habits as the smaller Downy, the Hairy Woodpecker has never been, at least in my experience, nearly as plentiful. In Central Park, for instance, there’s a number of downys all over the place, but there was only one Hairy that I ever saw with any regularity (certainly there were a couple more periodically, but never as many as the Downy.) They’re one of those birds that, because I don’t see them very often, I’ve sometimes will doubt my Downy identification at first, just because I hope it’s a Downy. But then you see a Hairy and you’re like “oh yeah, they really are a lot larger than the downy!”

Hairy Woodpecker2
Hairy Woodpecker, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Here in St. Louis, they’ve been even less plentiful. In fact, when I first wrote this post a while back, I hadn’t yet seen one in Missouri at all! Granted, I’ve only really birded Forest Park (for a number of reasons, one of which is I don’t yet have a car.) Then, as I was birding earlier this week, I saw one! And even better I was able to nab a couple of photos. They aren’t the best, but I had no pics for this post until the other day! Both photos really showcase just how large the bill is, making the ID a no-brainer. The Hairy Woodpecker is a nice little surprise bird. Never plentiful, and nearly identical in color pattern as a more common bird, but taking that extra second to get a good look can make al the difference! Still not sure how they got the name hairy though. Anyway, that’ll wrap it up for this week. Next time we have a sparrow that comes in different colors depending on where in the country you are; the Fox Sparrow. See you all then!

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