Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hairy Woodpecker

This week I had a delightful encounter with a Hairy Woodpecker.  Although I had seen one during the summer at La Manche Park I really didn't get a good look.
I first found this bird on Sunday and then relocated him yesterday.  It was really easy as all I had to do was follow the noise.  It was at the top of a light pole drumming away on the metal...on the metal. It must be a "metalhead."  I have seen a Northern Flicker do this and apparently some other woodpeckers do as well. They like sound! The noise carries for a long distance.
I was amazed at how well it could rotate its head in any direction. It was extremely watchful in between its drilling.
The behaviour and movements of a woodpecker are so different from other small birds.  I was really pleased to have the opportunity to stand and watch this one for about fifteen minutes.
The Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers look like blood relatives.  Up until now I wasn't sure that I could tell them apart.  I was going on size alone and as I have mentioned before this can be very tricky. The male Hairy Woodpecker has a black line that divides the red patch on the nape. Of course, the red patch is not present on females so the other markings are important to distinguishing the female Downy from the Hairy.
The bill of the Hairy Woodpecker is about the same length as the head. Both birds have white outer tail feathers but the Hairy Woodpecker's are totally white while the Downy has black spots on them.

For comparison I have included a picture of a little male Downy taken last winter. For those interested the Hairy can be found on Blackhead Road near the bus shelters and a Downy has regularly been showing up at a feeder on lower Rennies River. Finding both of these birds in these locations has been very consistent.

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