Hairy Woodpecker in Dead Pines

We awoke this morning to the bright peenk! of a Hairy Woodpecker in the oaks outside our bedroom window. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers has begun coming regularly to our back yard, especially to three tall dead pines on the edge of the woods. Late yesterday afternoon, we watched a female working on one tree, and off and on all day today, a male has returned to the same pines, often working in full view, close enough to admire his slender, long-billed profile (I want to say “long-nosed,” because that’s how it looks), and a bright red patch on the back of the head. He also has a white eye-ring that looks more prominent than in any of my field guides, and gives him a wide-eyed look.

Usually he works his way up the tree, steadily pecking and frequently calling out a sharp, loud peenk! He stops, tests out several spots, flicks away large flakes of pine bark with a sharp turn of his head, and when he finds a spot he likes, he pecks repeatedly, making a hole and enlarging it until he reaches the prey. Sometimes it looked like he found several small bugs in one hole, but twice I watched as he pulled out fat white grubs and gobbled them down. Occasionally he works his way down the trunk instead.

A Hairy Woodpecker is a larger, less common version of the more familiar Downy Woodpecker. A forest-loving bird, it’s usually seen around here either deep in the woods or on the edges, but when it’s around, its loud, assertive, and frequently repeated peenk! doesn’t sound shy or retiring at all. By comparison, a Downy Woodpecker seems gentle and easy-going. A Hairy Woodpecker is intensely energetic, focused, very active, and watchful, often looking around, moving quickly and efficiently – and telling everybody about it at the same time, calling out frequently as it works.

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