McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Hairy Woodpecker / Pic chevelu (Picoides villosus)

 Seasonal status at MBO:

JAN
       
FEB
       
MAR
       
APR
       
MAY
       
JUN
       
JUL
       
AUG
       
SEP
       
OCT
       
NOV
       
DEC
       
  common
  fairly common
  uncommon
  rare
  occasional
  no records
 
QUICK TIPS:
1) Except for juveniles, sex can be determined by the rear of the crown - males have a small red patch, while females lack any red

2) In summer to early fall, check the length of p10 - in juveniles only it extends >9 mm beyond the primary coverts

3) Look for moult limits among the primary coverts:
  
 - in HY/SY birds they are uniform but somewhat paler than the greater coverts
    - in SY/TY birds the outermost 1-5 coverts are fresh and black, while the remainder are uniformly paler brown
    - in ASY/ATY birds they are uniformly fresh and black OR irregularly fresh/black and worn/brown

Note that woodpeckers can be confusing since individuals can be recognized as SY throughout the calendar year, but with different characteristics before/after their prebasic moult; be sure to take the timing of moult (late summer / early fall) into account

Ageing and sexing guidelines:

January - August:

ATY - M
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing). Iris deep red. Crown has a red patch.

ATY - F
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing). Iris deep red. Crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers.

TY - M
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown.  Iris deep red. Crown has a red patch.

TY - F
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown.  Iris deep red. Crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers.

SY - M
Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Crown has a red patch.

SY - F
Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Crown does not have a red patch.

-

September - December:

ASY - M
All primary coverts are replaced (black) OR there are two generations present with a mixed pattern. Iris deep red. Crown has a red patch.

 

ASY - F
All primary coverts are replaced (black) OR there are two generations present with a mixed pattern. Iris deep red. Crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers.  

     

SY - M
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  Crown has a red patch.

     

SY - F
Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  Crown does not have a red patch.

     

HY - M
Primary coverts paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown. Crown has a red patch.

HY - F
Primary coverts paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown.  Crown does not have a red patch.

 Ageing and sexing details:

after-third-year male


The crown has a red patch, and the iris is a deep red.  It is occasionally possible to age an ATY with isolated retained juvenal feathers or 3 generations of primary coverts as a 4Y bird.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2006


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing).
 


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008

 


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2006


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008

 


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-third-year female

The crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers, and the iris is a deep red.  It is occasionally possible to age an ATY with isolated retained juvenal feathers or 3 generations of primary coverts as a 4Y bird.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing).


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

third-year male

Crown has a red patch. 



 


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  It is possible that a few extremely faded juvenal secondaries may be retained (s1-s5). Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.



 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.


 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

third-year female

Crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers. 


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


The outer few primary coverts are replaced (black). All other retained primary coverts are pale brown.  It is possible that a few extremely faded juvenal secondaries may be retained (s1-s5). Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.


Photo by Peter Pyle, MerryLea (IN), May 2005


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male

Crown has a red patch, and the iris is usually gray-brown,


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2008

 


Primary coverts uniformly worn and brown and contrast with the rest of the wing. Look for retention of juvenal characteristics: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2008 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does..  However, SY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2008

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female

Crown does not have a red patch, and the iris is usually gray-brown.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006
 


Primary coverts uniformly worn and brown and contrast with the rest of the wing. Look for retention of juvenal characteristics: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006
 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.  However, SY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, April 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-second-year male

The crown has a red patch, and the iris is a deep red.  It is occasionally possible to age an ASY with isolated retained juvenal feathers or 3 generations of primary coverts as a TY bird.


Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory, September 2008


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing).  The secondaries can either be uniformly adult with fresh tertials, OR a few older feathers may be retained, often asymmetrically.  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of coverts sequentially replaced may be aged as TY, but more study is needed.


Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory, September 2008

 


Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory, September 2008


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

after-second-year female

The crown does not have a red patch, but may have 1-2 red feathers, and the iris is a deep red.  It is occasionally possible to age an ASY with isolated retained juvenal feathers or 3 generations of primary coverts as a TY bird.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of black (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly black / dark brown (only marginally paler than wing).  The secondaries can either be uniformly adult with fresh tertials, OR a few older feathers may be retained, often asymmetrically.  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of coverts sequentially replaced may be aged as TY, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male

Crown has a red patch.

 


Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR may contain 1-4 retained juvenal feathers.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers. Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY.


 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female

Crown does not have a red patch.


 


Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR may contain 1-4 retained juvenal feathers.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers.  Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY.    


 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year male

Crown has a red patch, and the iris is gray/brown. 


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, August 2005


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts, demonstrated on the photo below.  In these cases, look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10, shown below (the paler feather on the right edge of the wing).


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, August 2005
 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.  However, HY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, August 2005

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year female

Crown does not have a red patch, and the iris is gray/brown. 


Photos by Marcel Gahbauer, September 2005


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing, as shown below.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts (see HY-M).  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, August 2005


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers, though can help differentiate between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpecker has black in the outer rectrix while the Hairy rarely does.  However, HY birds can sometimes have very pointed rectrices that may support other plumage characteristics.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, August 2005

 RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.