About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I’m in love with my Hairy Woodpecker

I’m so glad I feed suet year-round. I always have the Downy Woodpecker around. They are the smallest woodpeckers in Michigan, very friendly when I’m out filling feeders and their bumbling babies are adorable when the parents bring them up to the feeders in late spring.

This is the first year I’ve had a regular Hairy Woodpecker. They look almost identical to their cousin, the Downy, except for their gigantic size. My Hairy is about 10 inches long and has a wingspan of about 15 inches. The Downy’s name refers to the fluffy white feathers on the lower back, which differ from the more larger, hairlike feathers down the Hairy Woodpecker’s back.

Hairy Woodpeckers have black and white streaked wings and white on the chest, belly, back and outer tail feathers. On the male, there is a red patch on the back of the head, black crown, and black eye mask. The female lacks the red patch and the young birds may have red on their forehead instead of the back of the head.

Males advertise for a mate by drumming their bill on trees or anything that will make a good sound. Once the pair-bond is formed, both male and female drum. Next comes the excavation of a nest in a dead tree limb or tree trunk 10 to 200 ft off the ground. Hairy Woodpeckers only nest once a year. They lay two to five white eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for 14 days before they hatch and feed the babies for another month in the nest.

The majority of their diet is insects, especially hairy caterpillars and gypsy moths. Other insects include ants, grasshoppers, beetles, grubs, crickets, flies and spiders. They will also eat nuts, seeds, and some fruits and right now he is attacking my suet feeder.

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