Hairy Woodpecker - Dryobates villosus
A medium-sized woodpecker with (in most areas) a white back, white-spotted black wings (spotting is reduced in Rocky Mountains), a relatively large bill, white underparts, and a black head with two large white bars on each side; tail is black centrally, white on the sides; plumage that is white in most of the range is pale gray-brown in the Pacific Northwest; adult males have a red bar across the back of the head, young males have an orange or red-streaked crown; juveniles (particularly in Maritime Provinces) have some dark barring on the bank and flanks; average length 24 cm.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Differs from the Downy Woodpecker in larger size (average length 24 cm vs. 17 cm), larger bill (about as long as head vs. obviously shorter than head), absence of black bars or spots on outer tail feathers (downy generally has spots), and sharper call note ("peek!" vs. "pik"). Differs from Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers in lacking dark barring on the sides (may be present on flanks of juveniles).
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Migration not observed, although vertical migration to valleys is seen in late September (Skaar 1969).
In forest burns near Missoula, birds chose larch over Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine for nesting (Harvey 1982). Primarily a forest bird; widely distributed in regions where mature woodlands prevalent. Also occurs in small woodlots, wooded parks, cemeteries, shaded residential areas, and other urban areas with mature shade trees, but often scarce within these habitats (Jackson et al. 2002).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Tree surface and subsurface arthropods and a diversity of fruits and seeds. Readily comes to feeders (Jackson et al. 2002).
In Glacier National Park, birds were found feeding on an epidemic population of mountain pine beetles. Of 8 nesting pairs, one nested in lodgepole pine, the rest in aspen.
Cavity nester. In western North America, more often in large dead stubs or in some areas in aspen with fungal decay. Eggs are oval to elliptical-oval, shiny white in color and somewhat translucent when fresh. Two independent studies list clutch size mean as 3.93 eggs and 4.09 eggs (Jackson et al. 2002). Near Fortine, young in nests seen from May 18 to June 26; flying young seen June 28 (valleys) and July 27 (mountains). Statewide, nesting records are for June (Davis 1961).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. dissertation. Oregon State University, Corvallis. 462 pp.
- Harvey, G.E. 103 Dakota Avenue, Whitefish, Montana 59337. Personal communication to the Montana Natural Heritage Program.
- Jackson, J. A., H. R. Ouellet, and B. J. Jackson. 2002. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). In The birds of North America, No. 702 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and American Ornithologists’ Union.
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Gem Corporations. 1996. Application for an Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operations: Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Granite County, Montana. August 1996
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Bramblett, R.G., and A.V. Zale. 2002. Montana Prairie Riparian Native Species Report. Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University - Bozeman.
- Bull, E. L., S. R. Peterson, and J. W. Thomas. 1986. Resource partitioning among woodpeckers in northeastern Oregon. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. Research Note PNW-444. 19 pp.
- Cameron, E. S. 1907. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 24(3): 241-270.
- Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana.
- Dickson, D.C. 1991. Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Missoula, MT. 14 pp. plus appendices and photographs.
- Dresser, M.A. 2015. Demographic responses of woodpeckers in relation to a Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic in the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 71 p.
- DuBois, K.L. 1979. An inventory of the avifauna in the Long Pines of Southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 113 p.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Farmer, Patrick. J., et al., Western Technology and Eng., Inc., Helena, MT., 1984, Montana Tunnels Project Baseline Terrestrial Wildlife Study. December 14, 1984. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit, Montana Tunnels Project, Jefferson County, Montana. Vol. 3. Environmental Baseline Reports. (Centennial Minerals, Inc., Hydrometrics, 1984?)
- Flath, Dennis and David Dickson. 1994 Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area 1991-1993. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
- Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices.
- Harris, M. A. 1982. Habitat use among woodpeckers in forest burns. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 62 pp.
- Henderson, S. 1997. Effects of fire on avian distributions and patterns of abundance over two vegetation types in southwest Montana : implications for managing fire for biodiversity. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 95 p.
- Hendricks, P. 2000. Roadside bird counts on BLM lands in Petroleum and Fergus Counties, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 57pp.
- Herbert, J.T. 1977. An inventory of the bird population within the Sarpy Creek drainage, southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 81 p.
- Hoffman, N.J. 1997. Distribution of Picoides woodpeckers in relation to habitat disturbance within the Yellowstone area. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 74 p.
- Hoffmann, R. S. 1960. Summer birds of the Little Belt Mountains, Montana. Occasional Papers of Montana State University No. 1, Missoula.
- Hutto, R. L., and J. S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-32, Ogden, Utah.
- Hutto, Richard L. 1995. "Composition of Bird Communities Following Stand-Replacement Fires in Northern Rocky Mountain (U.S.A.) Conifer Forests". Conservation Biology. 9 (5): 1041-1058.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Matthews, W.L. 1981. Broadus-Pumpkin Creek baseline inventory - wildlife. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 83 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2016. Northern Goshawk surveys on the Beartooth, Ashland, and Sioux Districts of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest: 2012-2014. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 114pp.
- McClelland, B. R. 1977. Relationships between hole-nesting birds, forest snags and decay in western larch-Douglas fir forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. Ph.D. Thesis., Univ. of Montana, Missoula. 483 pp.
- McWethy, D.B. 2007. Bird response to landscape and pattern disturbance across productivity gradients in forests of the Pacific Northwest. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 184 p.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Mosher, B.A. 2011. Avian community response to a mountain beetle epidemic. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 55 p.
- Newlon, K.R. 2005. Demography of Lewis's Woodpecker, breeding bird densities, and riparian Aspen integrity in a grazed landscape. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 101 p.
- Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p.
- Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Sousa, P. J. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: hairy woodpecker. U. S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Rep. 82(10.146). 19 pp.
- Sparks, J.R. 1997. Breeding bird communities in mature and old-growth Douglas-fir forests in southwest Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
- Staebler, A.E. 1949. A Comparative Life History Study of the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers (Dendrocopus pubescens and D. villosus) Ph.D. Thesis. Univ. Of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
- Thunderbird Wildlife Consulting, Inc., Gillette, WY., 2003, Spring Creek Mine 2002 Wildlife Monitoring. March 2003.
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- Vold, S.T. 2018. Effects of livestock grazing management on the ecology of grassland birds and their predators in a northern mixed-grass prairie ecosystem. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 176 p.
- Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT., 1982, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Report, 1982.
- Weydemeyer, W., and D. Weydemeyer. 1928. The woodpeckers of Lincoln County, Montana. Condor 30:339-346.
- Zackheim, K. 1973. Exhibit H: Wildlife Study. In Ash Grove Cement Co. files.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"