Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
[Hairy Woodpecker (see also Phillips' Woodpecker,
and Audubon's Woodpecker).]
PICUS CANADENSIS, Gmel.
This species, which has been overlooked by all the recent writers on the
birds of North America, although described and figured by BUFFON, I again
introduce to your notice. If you compare the figure of it with that of the
Hairy Woodpecker, Picus villosus, you will perceive that it is much larger, and
somewhat differently marked, although extremely similar in form and colours.
The most southern localities in which this species has been observed in the
United States, in so far as I have been able to trace it, whether personally or
by means of my friend Dr. TRUDEAU, are the northern portions of the State of
Pennsylvania, in winter, where, however, it seems to be rare. It is more
plentiful at that season in the same parallel in the State of New York, beyond
which, northward, it is abundant up to the 56th degree, but then yields in
frequency to the Common Three-toed Woodpecker.
It was in the course of my journey through the State of Maine, on which I
was accompanied by my wife and sons, that I became aware of its being distinct
from the Hairy Woodpecker. There I found it very abundant in the woods, around
the farms, by the roads, and on the fences. Its notes alone suffice to
distinguish it from every other species, being louder and much shriller than
those of Picus villosus. It also resorts to prostrate decaying logs lying on
the ground, in quest of food, much more than that species does, and quite as
much as the Pileated Woodpecker, P. pileatus. During its flight, the rustling
sound of its wings is very remarkable; its passage from one tree to another
appears more laborious, and in all its movements it is less active, restless, or
petulant, than the Hairy Woodpecker. Those which I examined contained remains
of large coleopterous insects, together with pieces of lichens.
Of its manner of breeding, eggs, or young, I unfortunately know nothing.
The female differs from the male in little more than in wanting the red patch on
each side of the occiput.
PICUS CANADENSIS, Gmel. Syst. Nat., vol. i. p. 437.
PICUS (DENDROCOPUS) VILLOSUS, Hairy Woodpecker, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor.
Amer., vol. ii. p. 305.
CANADIAN WOODPECKER, Picus canadensis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 188.
Male, 10 1/2, 17 3/4.
From the northern parts of New York to the Fur Countries. Common.
Migratory in winter to New York.
Bill about the length of the head, straight, strong, angular, compressed
toward the tip, which is truncate and cuneate. Upper mandible with the dorsal
line straight, the ridge very narrow, the sides sloping and flat, the lateral
angle or ridge nearer the edge, which is sharp, direct, and overlapping. Lower
mandible with the angle short and rather wide, the dorsal line straight, the
ridge narrow, the sides flat and grooved for some way beyond the angle, convex
toward the edges, which are sharp and inflected, the tip narrow. Nostrils
oblong, basal, concealed by the feathers, and placed near the margin.
Head large, ovate; neck rather short; body full. Feet very short; tarsus
short, compressed, feathered anteriorly more than one-third down, scutellate in
the rest of its extent, and with a series of large scales behind; toes four,
first small, but stout; fourth considerably longer than the third; second and
third united at the base; all scutellate above. Claws large, much curved,
compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.
Plumage very soft, full, and blended. A large tuft of recurved stiffish
feathers on each side of the base of the upper mandible, concealing the
nostrils; the feathers in the angle of the lower mandible also stiffish, and
directed forwards. Wings rather long; the first quill very small, being only an
inch and a twelfth long, the second two inches longer, and seven-twelfths
shorter than the third, which is two-twelfths shorter than the fourth, this
being the longest, but exceeding the fifth only by one-twelfth; secondaries
broad and rounded. Tail of moderate length, cuneate, of twelve feathers, of
which the lateral, which are rounded and unworn, are only one inch and
two-twelfths long, the next, also unworn, are eleven-twelfths of an inch shorter
than the middle, which are pointed, sometimes without having the very strong
shafts worn, but also sometimes having them broken off at the end; all the rest
are more or less pointed.
Bill bluish-grey, toward the end black; iris brown; feet bluish-grey. The
tufts of bristly feathers over the nostrils, and the angle of the low jaw, are
dull yellow; the upper part of the head and the hind neck are glossy black; over
each eye is a band of white, continuous with a transverse band of scarlet on the
occiput, usually interrupted in the middle; a black band from near the bill to
the eye, continued behind it over the auriculars, and joining the black of the
hind neck; beneath this black band is one of white, proceeding from the angle of
the mouth and curving backwards below the middle of the neck, so as to meet its
fellow behind; this band is succeeded by another of black, proceeding from the
base of the lower mandible, and continuous with the black of the shoulders. All
the upper parts may be described as black, tinged with brown behind; the
feathers along the middle of the back tipped with white; the wing-coverts, the
anterior excepted, and the quills spotted with the same, there being on the four
longest primaries seven spots on the outer, and five on the inner web, on most
of the secondaries five on each web, but on the outer quill only one patch on
each web, and on the second three spots on the outer, and four on the inner web.
The four middle tail-feathers are glossy black, the rest black towards the base,
that colour gradually diminishing so that the outermost is almost entirely
white. The lower parts are white, slightly tinged with reddish on the fore neck
Length to end of tail 10 1/2 inches, to end of wings 8; to end of claws
9 1/4; extent of wings 17 3/4: bill along the ridge 1 5/12; along the edge of
lower mandible 1 3/4; wing from flexure 5 1/12; tail 3 6/12; tarsus (10 1/2)/12;
hind toe (3 1/4)/12, its claw 3/12; second toe (5 1/2)/12, its claw 6/12; third
toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw (6 1/2)/12; fourth toe 8/12, its claw (6 3/4)/12.
The female, which is somewhat smaller than the male, differs only in being
more tinged with brown, especially on the quills, and in wanting the red patches
on the occiput.
In form and colour, this species differs in no appreciable degree from
Picus villosus, which it also resembles in the texture of its plumage, and in
the relative proportion of the quills and tail-feathers. But it is much larger,
its bill is proportionally stouter, and its fourth toe a little more elongated.
The differences, however, are extremely slight.
The roof of the mouth is anteriorly nearly flat, with a prominent median
line; the posterior aperture of the nares linear, 9 1/2 twelfths long, and
margined with papillae. The tongue is 1 1/2 inches long, somewhat cylindrical
for 11 twelfths, in the rest of its extent slender, tapering, with a horny
sheath, having eight reversed bristles on each margin. The horns of the hyoid
bone pass along the median line of the head until they are over the middle of
the eyes, when they turn to the right side, and are curved along a deep groove
on the anterior edge of the orbit, passing under the eye to opposite its middle.
The oesophagus is 3 inches 2 twelfths long, 3 1/4 twelfths in width, and of
nearly uniform diameter. The stomach is rather small, elliptical, 9 twelfths
long, 8 twelfths broad; its lateral muscles moderately developed. The contents
are larvae and coleopterous insects. The epithelium is dense but thin, and
longitudinally rugous. The intestine is 9 inches long, 2 1/2 twelfths in width
at its anterior part. There are no coeca.
The trachea is 2 1/2 inches long, slender, about 2 1/2 twelfths in breadth,
a little flattened, and of about 60 rings. The bronchi are of moderate length,
slender, of about 12 half rings. The contractor muscles are moderate; the
sterno-tracheals come off close to the inferior larynx, which is destitute of