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Backyard birding: you'll hear these woodpeckers before you'll see them

Sometimes you get lucky, like Jon Vopni, and a large Pileated Woodpecker flies over your head

Since the pandemic has forced Jon Vopni to stay home more, he's been enjoying the extra time to do some backyard birding.

This week, Vopni is sharing his photos and observations of woodpeckers. 


Here are two woodpeckers that I photographed this year, the first is a Hairy Woodpecker that frequents my feeder.

They prefer suet feeders but as you can see they will land on seed feeders as well. This guy is pretty common as well as the Downy Woodpecker who is about the same size with similar markings but has a shorter beak, you will no doubt hear them tapping on a tree nearby.

The second is the Pileated Woodpecker the largest woodpecker. You will hear this guy before you see them with their very loud distinct call, you can also hear them hammering away at trees.

This particular male we heard and then spotted on a walk with my daughter on the Margaret Paul SIde Trail. once we heard it we stood still and he flew right over us and I captured an almost X-ray like image of him in flight, backlit by the sun. It was like he was checking us out then he landed on a tree which is the second image. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Pileated Woodpecker

A large woodpecker, about the size of a crow. Inhabits hardwood forests. It has a powerful bill, about as long as the head, is used to chisel away decaying trees to reach insects. In-flight, look for prominent white underwings and undulating flight to separate from crow. Loud drumming and calls can frequently be heard if they are in the area. It visits feeders in appropriate habitat. Nests in cavities.

Hairy Woodpecker

Widespread and familiar woodland resident and backyard visitor. Its black-and-white plumage is nearly identical to the smaller Downy Woodpecker, but note longer bill (about the length of the head) and clean white outer tail feathers. Readily visits feeders, especially suet. Nests in cavities


This video includes an audio recording of both the Pileated and the Hairy Woodpecker's calls.