Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker (female) @ Val Lee

I shot this female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) in the Payette Lake area of Idaho. (My video link of lake at bottom of article) It was a joy to spot her on the dirted pathway. She would also be classified as a western Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpeckers are so-called due to the long whitefeathers that run down the middle of their back.

The LORD Jesus Christ created these wood maneuvering stately beings to be amazingly equipped. This Woodpecker’s tongue can be extended at least three times its beak length; a significant distance beyond the bill for probing deeply to catch a mouthful of delectable bugs. Here the capabilities of the Woodpecker tongue astound. Tree trails formed by wood-boring beetle larvae or other insects can be extensive. Located beneath the outer layer of bark, these shallow subways can extend for several inches or even feet. When the Hairy Woodpecker’s bill infringes upon an insect passage, it extends its tongue and probes about for a tasty morsel. If located, it skewers its prey with its sharp barbed tongue tip. This contented ave will then withdraw its happy tongue full of delicious protein.

These aves can also consume at hummingbird feeders by extending their tongues into the holes for bottom feeding, being drenched in all that succulent nectar.

Many people sit in awe regarding this flexible tongue that is somewhat like fishing reel line, like leader extending or receding back into the mouth. Tiny flexible tongue bones (hyoid) allow the tongue to exit from the Woodpecker’s right nostril. It circles around behind the head and neck, and enters into the beak on the other side of the head. Circling around behind the head and neck under the loose skin gives the tongue enough extra length so it can shoot out into a tree trunk like an arrow. It is like an arrow, as it possesses a barbed sharp end. No man-made contraption can match it!

Though the hairy’s tongue is long, it does not dangle down nor tangle around branches like regular fishing line. The slack is held under the skin behind the neck. “Within the entire length of the Woodpecker’s tongue lies the ‘hyoid apparatus,’ a linear series of tiny bones sheathed in muscles and soft tissue.” These ultra-thin hyoid bones amazingly fold up like an accordion. This design is so remarkable that it is hard to comprehend. What scientist or doctor would imagine such a thing on his own volition?

The hammerhead’s tongue and beak are synchronized for success. The bill is long, tough and chisel-like. Though it does not resemble a chisel, it maneuvers like one. It forages on trees, often turning over bark—excavating—to uncover the insect’s hidden world. No man can create such a tool, only God. When man manufactures a chisel, knife or saw, it must be sharpened. The LORD created Woodpecker beaks to be self-sharpening and they never need to be replaced. Brain-filled man has never manufactured such a tool.

This Woodpecker skull encloses the brain in a tight grip so it cannot shift, thus avoiding concussions. Its proficient neck muscles produce a continual series of rapid movements for drilling. What human brain could endure such continual thrusting?

Their diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruit, caterpillars, moths, ants, grasshoppers, wood-boring beetles, spiders, crickets and flies.

My video of a hungry Hairy:


They can dodge prey critters by swiftly maneuvering sideways behind a trunk of a tree. They can hang upright off the side of a timber using their sharp minute claws to grip the bark. Their starch-like physique and tail feathers also assist their steadfast balance, whereby they can maneuver every which way. They have the sharpest known nails (toes) on their continually moving feet. They have two toes pointing forwards and two backwards. Jesus Christ provided everything they could ever need to survive.

There are 17 species of Hairy Woodpeckers. Northern Harrys tend to be larger than southern. East of the Rockies, they have white bellies with extensively spotted wings. Western birds display less spotting on wings and narrower facial stripes. Aves in the Pacific Northwest are brown and black (rather than white and black). Interestingly, the similar Downy Woodpeckers show these same regional patterns of variation. Downys are considered a smaller edition of the Hairys.

Adults are mainly black on upper parts and wings, with white and back spotting. Their throat and belly vary from white to sooty brown. A white bar is displayed above and one below the eye. They exhibit a black tail with white outer feathers. Females and males look-alike outside of the fact that males display a small patch of red on rear of crown as do Downy Woodpeckers.

Hairys reside in deciduous forests, suburbs, and parks in the Bahamas, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Turks and Caicos Islands, Canada and the United States.

Hairy Woodpecker (female) @ Val Lee

They are an abundant Woodpecker of nine million or more. It is a medium-sized Woodpecker, about the size of a robin—9 to 13 inches, with a 15-inch wingspan. Hairys have a slow and uneven flight pattern like most Woodpeckers.

Rex Brasher (1926) writes on the courting Hairy: “Seated under a cluster of small maples, one day in early May, I watched the interesting courting antics of the pair (Hairy Woodpeckers). The jaunty male’s favorite position was one in which he appeared to be almost standing on his tail. With bill upright, wings thrown forward, and tail widespread, he repeated over and over what was undoubtedly intended for a love-song, a series of notes divided between chuckles and whistles. But the strangest, most mystifying performance was a series of backward drops on the under side of a limb inclined about forty-five degrees. . . . Why didn’t the little acrobat fall when he released his claws? Studying his movements carefully through the binoculars, I came to the conclusion that at the instant of releasing his grip he jerked his body toward the limb with sufficient impetus to catch the bark six inches or so below.”

Mr. Hairy Woodpecker engages in a slow courtship that commences in the depth of winter after establishing his territory. Yes, burr! He begins drumming his heart with his beak on a favorite post to proclaim a dating announcement. An interested gal will drum “rat a tap tap” in reply, letting him know his announcement was delivered in Native Indian-like style. The lengthy duet drumming expresses their love and commitment to one another. When they finally meet, after days or weeks of drumming (being a bit on the shy side), they perform aerial displays of wonder—striking their wings against their sides to produce a clapping sound (perhaps to applaud their joyful union). They may also flutter their wings like butterflies, seeming to almost hover in the air (a heavenly floating romance).

Their fast paced drilling can reach an intense state and be prolonged when the male favors one nest site and his mate another. They drum until one drummer wins over the other.

If a couple has been separated for a period, they will rejoice upon seeing each other again with lively and exuberant love song notes. They do strive to remain close to one another during the breeding season. If one cannot locate the other, they will drum for a period of time for a GPS location.

Christian Husbands and wives should also possess such a bond; whereby, if they are away from one another for an extended period, they rejoice upon reunion through various ways of communication. Birds and other wildlife can teach us lessons as the Bible reveals.

The book of the Song of Solomon teaches that a dating type love that never ends is most necessary in a marriage. Husbands and wives should always eye each other as sweet lovers. A man should never require that his wife treat him like a son nor should he treat her as an unwanted child—always verbally belittling her in his arrogance, as if she was not a responsible adult, as if she was not a co-heir of the grace of life—1 Peter 3:7. She is to be her husband’s queen.

The wife too has her role, that being of respect and obedience. She must not disrespect her husband in any way, but love him unconditionally as her king. Esther excelled in this being her husband was the king of Persia and Media. I explain this in my book, Queen Esther/Looming Holocaust: You can read the book without charge here:  or purchase it through Amazon for a pittance; whereby, you can also listen or read the book via a BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android or Kindle:

The Bible is the best guidebook on marital bliss. If couples neglect its inerrant teachings, everyone suffers. We all fall short at times but God restores and forgives the believer.

Lawrence Kilham noted that a hand-raised Hairy Woodpecker couple appeared to enjoy not only the company of each other, but also of those who cared for them. They would express their communal happiness through outbursts of intimate vocalization.

A true and lasting relationship is firmly bonded when two hairys begin nesting. They begin forming a nest in a tree hole, 3 to 55 feet above ground level, by hammering and twisting their heads from side to side in militaristic determination and rhythm. They do not stop and smell the roses as they drill. It is as if they are on a mission that will not cease for any real break time.

In fortitude of duty, they fling woodchips out of the starter nest cavity. Making a mess on the ground is not their concern. Upon completion of the rounded hole and inner home space, the mom to be lays 3 to 6 white eggs on a bed of woodchips (not very downy). Both parents incubate and brood the young. Papa sits on the eggs during the night, and mama relieves him every morning after sunrise. They alternate these duties throughout the day. After the cute woodys are hatched, both parents engage in nest sanitation (discarding the droppings of their young, keeping the log home nice and tidy). Egg incubation is 11-12 days and the nestlings depart in 28-30 days past hatching.


Hairy Woodpecker, female juvenile, © Val J. Lee

Hairy Woodpecker, female juvenile, © Val J. Lee

Interestingly, the tongue of a newly hatched Woodpecker is most short, making it easy for parents to place food in the mouth of a crying hungry one. God formed everything just right for every situation.

A couple will defend their nestlings. Their bill is their master weapon. They will strike fast with hard blows. They can even repel a raccoon.

The nesting Sparrow is one of the enemies of the nesting Hairy Woodpecker, and Sparrows like to cease their nests for their own. B. T. Gault wrote: “I once saw one of these sparrows enter the hole of one of these birds (a Hairy Woodpecker) and take a newly hatched bird out in its bill, flutter for an instant over the water (the nest was in a dead willow snag standing in the overflowed Illinois River bottom), and drop the young bird into the water to drown. (My, oh my) It then returned into the nest and soon appeared with another newly hatched woodpecker in its bill…”

Woodpecker couples live fairly separate lives outside of copulation season; however, both will remain in the same territory.

Attracting: You can attract them to your backyard feeders by offering black oil sunflower seeds and suet. However, remember, they can create holes in home siding.


My video of Lake Payette: https:

*Information gratefully gathered from various web sources

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