Harris' Woodpecker

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


Back TOC Forward

Bird Call

[Hairy Woodpecker (see also Canadian Woodpecker, Phillips' Woodpecker, Maria's Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Audubon's Woodpecker).]

[Picoides villosus.]


It is to Mr. TOWNSEND that we are indebted for the discovery of this singularly marked species, of which he has sent me a pair of specimens in excellent preservation, both shot on the Columbia river, the male on the 18th of January 1836, the female on the 7th of September 1834. Having been left at liberty to give names to whatever new species might occur among the birds transmitted to me by that zealous naturalist, I have honoured the present Woodpecker with the name of my friend EDWARD HARRIS, Esq., a gentleman to whom I am most deeply indebted for many acts of kindness and generosity, and in particular for his efficient aid at a time when, like my predecessor WILSON, I was reduced to the lowest degree of indigence, and removed from any individuals to whom I could make known my wants. But, independently of his claim to scientific recognition as the friend and supporter of one who has devoted his life to the study of birds, he merits this tribute as an ardent and successful cultivator of ornithology, and an admirer of the works of Him whose good providence gave me so noble-hearted a friend.

HARRIS' WOODPECKER, Picus Harrisii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 191.

Male, 9; wing, 5 2/12.

Columbia river. Rare.

Adult Male.

Bill about the length of the head, straight, strong, angular, compressed toward the end, which is truncate and cuneate. Upper mandible with the dorsal line straight, the ridge very narrow, the sides sloping and concave to the lateral angle, which is nearer the edge, the intervening space nearly erect, the edges sharp, direct, and overlapping. Lower mandible with the angle short and of moderate width, the dorsal line straight, the ridge narrow, the sides convex at the base, sloping outwards and nearly flat, with a faint ridge, above which they are convex, the edges sharp, the tip truncate. 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, as well as internally behind; toes four; first small, fourth longest and directed backwards, second and third united at the base, the latter not much longer; all scutellate above. Claws large, much curved, compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.

Plumage very soft, full, and blended. A tuft of recurved stiffish feathers on each side of the base of the upper mandible, concealing the nostrils. Wings rather long; the first quill very small, being only an inch and two-twelfths in length, and two inches and a twelfth shorter than the second, which is eight-twelfths shorter than the third, the fourth two-twelfths longer than the latter, but scarcely exceeding the fifth; secondaries broadly rounded, the outer slightly emarginate. Tail of moderate length, cuneate, of twelve feathers, of which the latter, which is rounded and unworn, is only ten-twelfths long, the next, also rounded, an inch and a twelfth shorter than the middle, of which the shaft terminates so as to leave the tip slit.

Bill bluish-grey, as are the feet; the claws brown. The tufts at the base of the upper mandible dull yellow, with the tips black; the upper part of the head glossy black; over each eye is a band of white continuous with a transverse band of scarlet on the occiput; a black band in the loral space, continued behind the eye 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 backward below the middle of the neck, but without meeting its fellow; this band is succeeded by another of black, proceeding from the base of the lower mandible, and continuous with the black of the hind neck and shoulders. All the upper parts are black, the quills tinged with brown; but the feathers along the middle of the back are largely tipped with white; the quills, excepting the inner three, are marked with small roundish spots, of which there are five on the outer, and four on the inner web of the four longest quills, while on the outer there is only an elongated spot on the inner web, and on the next one spot on the outer and three on the inner. The four middle tail-feathers are black, the next also black, with a small part of the inner web, and a large portion of the outer, toward the end, white; the rest white, with the base black; the outermost small feather almost entirely white. The lower parts are brownish-white.

Length to end of tail 9 inches; bill along the ridge 1 1/4, along the edge of lower mandible 1 5/12; wing from flexure 5 2/12; tail 3 1/2, tarsus 10/12; hind toe 3/12, its claw 3/12; second toe 6/12, its claw 6/12; third toe 7/12, its claw 7/12; fourth toe 8/12, its claw 7/12.

Adult Female.

The female resembles the male, but wants the red occipital band.

Back TOC Forward

Save Our Forests