I was rather surprised to find that the 10,000 Clicks section of 10,000 Birds does not have a Hairy Woodpecker gallery. Surely this is a terrible oversight on someone’s part and may I say that the Downy Woodpecker post is also up for grabs.

JFK 28Jan13 Hairy Woodpecker 01

Hairy Woodpecker

I got lucky in Central Park at the end of January as this individual Hairy Woodpecker crossed the path in front of me and settled on a rotted stump close by. The most obvious way to tell the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers apart is to note the size of the bird and the size of it’s bill. The Hairy Woodpecker is noticeably larger in each case.

ORD 15Sep11 Downy Woodpecker 01 - Copy

Downy Woodpecker with smaller bill

Sibley gives the call as a sharp “Peek”, but to my ears it sounded more like “Sweep”. Thanks to the generosity of www.xeno-canto.org, I can bring you the call note of the Hairy Woodpecker and the bird continued calling as it chiselled into the stump.

JFK 28Jan13 Hairy Woodpecker 04

On this occasion I did not hear the mono-pitched rattle call. The Downy Woodpecker has a similar rattle call that descends as it goes. I had to refer to Sibley’s bible for the drumming characteristics: The Hairy Woodpecker drums very fast and the beats are indistinguishable, melting into a buzz, but slow down towards the end.  The Downy Woodpecker drums more slowly. but still too fast to count accurately.

JFK 28Jan13 Hairy Woodpecker 05

The tufts at the base of the bill are said to be inconspicuous, but on this occasion I think they may have been stained by soggy woodpulp and stood out quite well.

JFK 28Jan13 Hairy Woodpecker 02

If you liked this post and want to see more great images of birds make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.

Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.