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My Life’s Birds: #93

June 4, 2008

October 17, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – Just that little bit larger, that little bit louder, that little bit rarer. What can be said about the Hairy Woodpecker than can’t also be said about it’s tiny cogener, the Downy, but on a slightly different scale?

The Hairy scarcely exists except in comparison to the Downy, they’re practically inseparable in the minds of birders. You see a black and white woodpecker in the woods. Look at the bill. Is it a Downy? Is it a Hairy? The question lingers until the bird turns, and in the case of the bigger bird, flashes that long bill, that real woodpecker’s bill. Not the ridiculously undersized sunflower shucker of the common Downy, but the beetle grub seeking missile smack on the face of the Hairy. A bill a woodpecker can be proud of.

For me, a Hairy Woodpecker is always a bird of note. I see them so infrequently, especially in comparison to other similar sized woodpeckers like Red-bellied or Red-heads, that it’s a red-letter day. I often wondered why this was the case. Was is because they prefer a more mature woods than the Bellies and Redheads? The latter two certainly seem to prefer, or at least are better able to take advantage of, degraded habitat. Was it because there are just traditionally fewer Hairies around? I don’t know enough about their population dynamics to make a statement to that either. I suspect it is the first that results in the second. What’s certainly true, however, is that Hairy Woodpeckers are more than just the Downy’s big brother.

photo from wikipedia

One Comment
  1. Jochen permalink
    June 5, 2008 2:54 am

    Wow, N8, that’s a very neat text about the Hairy. I truly enjoyed reading it!

    I am always surprised how different the bird life is around the Great Lakes compared to NC: A Redhead is an absolute make-my-day and Hairies are certainly nice and not too common, but still rather regular. Of course the Bellies are everywhere as well. As are Willow Flys on migration, most common Fly I encountered at the birding hot spots.

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