Hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers look alike and their ranges overlap and one would think that they would compete with each other for food. Yet they have behavioral differences and live in slightly different habitats, perhaps to reduce potential competition.
For instance, the larger hairy woodpecker excavates nest cavities in live wood while the downy woodpecker prefers dead wood. The hairy woodpecker prefers a forested environment while the downy prefers a more open environment. These preferences reduce competition for food and nesting resouces between these two species.
The two central tail feathers are structurally stiffened and connected to large muscles, which act in concert to support the birds as they search for food or excavate nest holes.
Fine, stiff feathers cover the nares (nostrils) of these birds to protect them from bits of flying wood and sawdust.
The woodpecker finds its food visually by looking into bark crevices, by feeling with its tongue beneath the bark for insects, as well as sensing the vibrations of insects just below the surface of the bark.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Key ID Features: Both sexes are black and white. Male has a red patch on head. About robin-sized. Bill is longer than the distance from the base to the eye, unlike similar downy woodpecker.
Present in Park: Year-round.
Habitat: Forests and forested yards.
Did You Know?
At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 1,475 feet above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.