Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus)


French: Pic chevelu German: Haarspecht Spanish: Pico velloso

Picus villosus


, 1766,

New Jersey, USA


Close to L. stricklandi (with L. arizonae) and L. albolarvatus, with which it forms a relatively closely related cluster of taxa that is linked with L. borealis; all were previously placed in Picoides. May have interbred with Dryobates scalaris. Genetic analysis suggests very close relationship also to L. fumigatus, previously placed in genus Veniliornis. Spectacular variation in size, coloration and plumage pattern is largely clinal in nature, associated with temperature and moisture, races intergrading in many areas. Recent phylogenetic study#R found that races formed three main clades (each c. 1.5% divergent from others), one from N & E zones of North America, another from W & SW North America, and third a disjunct population in Costa Rica and Panama; the W & SW clade was further divided into three geographically and genetically isolated groups (Pacific-coast ranges; interior ranges; S Mexico); races in Bahamas not adequately sampled in study (just one individual), but genetic differentiation of piger was small, in contrast to its striking morphological differentiation (moreover, the two Bahama forms exhibit clear morphological differences from each other; further examination needed). Same study#R indicated also that coastal British Columbian forms such as sitkensis (previously considered N forms of harrisi) belong to the E assemblage of taxa, and possibility that neither harrisi nor monticola extends N into Canada; and that extimus, previously lumped with sanctorum, is genetically very distinct from latter. Otherwise, a large number of races described, of which many are unsustainable: e.g. scrippsae (N Baja California), intermedius (mountains of E Mexico), parvulus (N El Salvador to N & W Honduras) and fumeus (highlands of S Honduras and N Nicaragua). Seventeen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. v. septentrionalis (Nuttall, 1840) – from tree-line in Alaska E across S Canada to Ontario, and S to SC British Columbia, Colorado, N New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota.
  • L. v. sitkensis (Swarth, 1911) – coast of SE Alaska and N British Columbia.
  • L. v. terraenovae (Batchelder, 1908) – Newfoundland.
  • L. v. villosus (Linnaeus, 1766) – Eastern Hairy Woodpecker – from E North Dakota E to S Quebec and Nova Scotia, and S to E Colorado, C Texas, Missouri (Ozark Plateau) and N Virginia.
  • L. v. audubonii (Swainson, 1832) – from E Texas, S Illinois and SE Virginia S to Gulf coast.
  • L. v. piger (G. M. Allen, 1905) – N Bahamas (Grand Bahama, Abaco, Mores).
  • L. v. maynardi (Ridgway, 1887) – Bahamas Hairy Woodpecker – S Bahamas (Andros, New Providence).
  • L. v. picoideus (Osgood, 1901) – Queen Charlotte Is, off British Columbia.
  • L. v. harrisi (Audubon, 1838) – Pacific Hairy Woodpecker – coastal region from S British Columbia to NW California.
  • L. v. hyloscopus (Cabanis & Heine, 1863) – W California S to N Baja California.
  • L. v. orius (Oberholser, 1911) – Cascade Mts in British Columbia S through C Oregon to E California.
  • L. v. monticola (Anthony, 1896) – Rocky Mountains Hairy Woodpecker – Rocky Mts from C British Columbia S to W South Dakota, W Nebraska and N New Mexico.
  • L. v. leucothorectis (Oberholser, 1911) – SE California, S Nevada and SW Utah to C Arizona, New Mexico and extreme W Texas.
  • L. v. icastus (Oberholser, 1911) – SE Arizona and SW New Mexico S in W Mexico to Jalisco.
  • L. v. jardinii (Malherbe, 1845) – South Mexican Hairy Woodpecker – C Mexico from San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Veracruz to Jalisco, Guerrero and Oaxaca.
  • L. v. sanctorum (Nelson, 1897) – S Mexico (Chiapas) and Guatemala SE to Nicaragua.
  • L. v. extimus (Bangs, 1902) – Costa Rican Hairy Woodpecker – Costa Rica and W Panama.
  • Descriptive notes

    16·5–26 cm; 59–80 g (villosus), 72–80 g (picoideus), 42 g (sancto­rum). Male has white nasal tufts, black forehead and... read more


    Rather high-pitched “keek”; calls of Panama birds higher-pitched and more subdued than... read more


    Wide range of forest types and woodlands, especially with pines (Pinus). In NW USA found... read more

    Food and feeding

    Largely animal food: c. 50% of this made up by larvae of wood-boring beetles (especially cerambycids and buprestids, but also curculionids... read more


    Season varies relatively little; nests found in Apr–Jun in British Columbia and Ontario, end Mar to Jun (peak Apr–May) in... read more


    Resident in most of range. Some seasonal movements performed by populations farthest N, and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common in most of range; fairly common in Bahamas; rather common in Mexico. Rather widespread in much of range, especially... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).