Hairy Woodpecker – Common?

Let’s say you got the following request:  “I’m from out of your area and will be in town next week. And I really want to see a Hairy Woodpecker. Could you help?”

I don’t know about you but my reply would be “How much time do you have?”

As I alluded at the end of the last post – birds listed as common sometimes aren’t.

I prided myself in LaSalle County Illinois and now Johnson County Indiana of knowing where to find the abundant, common, and scarce birds.

But on any given day is anything abundant to common? Some are “usually” abundant – like Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, others common – like a Northern Flicker, and scarcer like Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers.

So where does the Hairy Woodworker fall? 

Supposedly Fairly Common per National Geographic and Dunne. At least Sibley lists it as uncommon.

But I can’t tell you with certainty where to find one in Johnson County. And that bothers me.

HAWO Hairy Woodpecker
How uncommon is a Hairy Woodpecker? I had to use a photo from the Internet since I couldn’t find one of my own. Granted, I didn’t start tagging photos until I started the blog, but that was 3 years ago. DickDaniels ( – Own work  http://CC BY-SA 3.0

All I know is when we have a count – Christmas, Big May Day – there is a sigh of relieve when someone says they saw a Hairy Woodpecker.

Maybe people are seeing them at their feeders but I’m not a feeder type guy.

There are several other birds listed as common such as Belted Kingfisher, Carolina Wren, and Song Sparrow which seem to be scarce on count days. There are more but you get the idea.

The point is to demonstrate the only sure way to know your local bird distribution is to bird the different habitats regularly.

2 Replies to “Hairy Woodpecker – Common?”

  1. Interesting question. I would have to go with common but widely spread out. The park by my house is a reliable spot for them, but anywhere else I would not be surprised if I spent the whole day out and didn’t see one. But at the same time, I am also not surprised when one does show up. I can’t really think of a resident bird with similar tendencies.

    1. Good way of putting it, “not surprised when one does show up”. If there was a category between fairly common and uncommon I would put it there. I think one of the field guides does have that category but I can’t put my finger on it. I think I need to do a post on the categories of distribution.

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