Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides [Dendrocopos] villosus) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 132 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2020.

The hairy woodpecker is one of the most frequently-seen members of its family. It is often seen at garden bird feeders in winter, where it favours suet-based offerings. It has a relatively robust bill, which helps distinguish it from the smaller downy woodpecker, should the size of the bird to hard to judge.

The bird breeds right across Canada, from the central Yukon to the island of Newfoundland (Godfrey, 1979, pp.244-245). It may be heard questing for insects in dead or damaged timber, and the male drums in the mating season (Lawrence, 1974). In Trent Hills it appears year-round, with peak recorded observations in April, October and December. The hairy woodpecker breeds across most of the province (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.240-241), including every 100-km quadrangle south of Sudbury. The addition of new data for the later edition (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.328-329) confirms that the bird continues to live in the area with a healthy population, while on the Grenville shield to the immediate north numbers have actually increased since the 1980s. Descriptions can be found in either edition of the atlas, and in much more detail in Bent (1939).

The hairy woodpecker breeds at Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south. "Adults are generally very secretive while nesting, and so are more difficult to locate in summer" (LaForest, 1993, pp.227-228). Numbers seen in a day tend to be small, with a maximum of six recorded on 15 October 1988.

In Peterborough county, to the northwest, this woodpecker is also seen year-round (Sadler, 1983). During Christmas bird counts at that time the hairy was sighted less often than the downy at Peterborough, but more often at Buckhorn to the north.

View the complete 22-year (1999-2020) monthly data summary (227-kb pdf file).


Bent,AC (1939) Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers. Dover Publications Inc., 1964 reprint of Smithsonian Institution Bull. 174, 334pp. plus 39 plates.

Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

Godfrey,WE (1979) The Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, 428pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Lawrence,RD (1974) The listeners. In "Wildlife in North America: Birds", Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada) Limited, Don Mills, ON, 256pp., 27-32.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, updated 01 January 2012, 08 March 2021

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