Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The hairy woodpecker, Picoides villosus, occurs in Alaska, Canada, much of the continental United States, and southward into Panama. In the western United States, it is primarily a resident species found in deciduous or coniferous forests, woodlands, and orchards. In the southwestern U. S., including Utah, it is found mainly in mountainous areas. Hairy woodpeckers drill into tree bark using their strong bills and then excavate insects and tree sap with their sticky barb-tipped tongues. During the winter, they supplement their diets with nuts, such as acorns, hazelnuts, and beechnuts. In addition to excavation duties, hairy woodpeckers also use their bills to drum on hollow objects, such as dead branches, metal gutters, or even trash cans in order to advertise territorial boundaries and attract mates.

Hairy woodpeckers form pair bonds in the winter. The male typically selects a nesting site in a standing dead tree, and the pair spends one to three weeks excavating a cavity. The cavity is lined with chips and typically four eggs are incubated. The male and female share nest-sitting duties (males take nights and females take days) during the incubation period of approximately two weeks. The female shoulders most of the care-taking responsibilities after the young hatch. Both parents continue to care for the young for several weeks after the young leave the nest. There have been reports that hairy woodpecker numbers are declining in several areas, though it is believed that these declines are limited to local populations. The declines may be attributed in part to the loss of nest cavities to other birds, such as house sparrows and starlings.


  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.