How to Identify a Hairy Woodpecker

Updated: Dec. 17, 2021

The hairy woodpecker is a black and white woodpecker with a strong call. Attract these birds with suet feeders and peanuts.

What Does a Hairy Woodpecker Look Like?

William G. Hartford

A hairy woodpecker is black and white with a spotted back and wings and white underparts. The birds are 9-1/4 inches long, with a 15 inch wingspan. While its markings are similar to the downy woodpecker, the hairy is about one-third larger, close to the size of a robin. Its chisel-shaped bill is prominent, about the same length as its head. Its coloring varies across North America, and at times it appears to be stained with brown watercolors and has less spotting.

Check out 10 woodpecker species birders should know.

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Dan Garber

The female lacks the red patch on the back of its head. Psst—here’s how to identify a red headed woodpecker.

Nest and Eggs

Hairy woodpeckers nest in a cavity excavated by both sexes. The female usually lays four white eggs. Learn all about red bellied woodpeckers.

Juvenile Hairy Woodpecker

hairy woodpeckerCourtesy Mike Lasky
Adult male and juvenile

An immature hairy may show some brown in its feathers. On a very young bird, look for the loose, fluffy feathers of a fledgling.

Hairy Woodpecker Call

Listen to hear what hairy woodpeckers sound like. Their call is a strong “peek” or “peech,” that sounds sharper than the downy.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Learn about the northern flicker: unique, beautiful woodpeckers.

What Do Hairy Woodpeckers Eat?

hairy woodpeckerCourtesy Ted Busby

Their diet mainly consists of insects, larvae of woodborers, fruit and nuts. Attract hairy woodpeckers with feeders full of suet, peanuts, peanut butter and black-oil sunflower seeds, especially in the winter. Check out the 4 best foods for attracting woodpeckers.

Range Map and Habitat

These birds prefer forests, but may move to open country in fall and winter. You can see them year-round throughout much of the United States.

Hairy Woodpecker Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, learn why woodpeckers peck and how to stop it.