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Gairdner's Woodpecker

Gairdner's Woodpecker

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

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


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Bird Call

[Downy Woodpecker (see also Downy Woodpecker).]

[Picoides pubescens.]

(Not figured.)

This curious little Woodpecker is so very similar to Picus pubescens in form, size, and colour, that one can scarcely distinguish it, its affinity to that species being as strict as that of Picus villosus to P. canadensis. Its bill is slightly stronger; but the greatest difference is found in the toes, which are very much larger, as will be seen from the following measurements.

			Picus Gairdnerii.     Picus pubescens.
Tarsus, .  .  .  .  .  .  (7 1/2)/12               7/12
Hind toe,  .  .  .  .  .  (2 1/2)/12               2/12
Its claw,  .  .  .  .  .  (2 3/4)/12            (2 1/2)/12
Second toe,.  .  .  .  .  (4 1/2)/12            (4 1/4)/12
Its claw,  .  .  .  .  .  (4 1/2)/12               4/12
Third toe, .  .  .  .  .  (5 3/4)/12               5/12
Its claw,  .  .  .  .  .     5/12                  4/12
Fourth toe,.  .  .  .  .     7/12                  6/12
Its claw,  .  .  .  .  .  (4 3/4)/12            (4 1/2)/12

These differences may appear slight, and were there intermediate gradations, would be of no value, but I find that eight individuals of P. pubescens present no material deviation from the above measurements, while my specimen of P. Gairdnerii may be at once distinguished by the greater length especially of the outer or reversed toe. Its bill is also considerably thicker at the base, although otherwise similar. Another difference presents itself in the relative length of some of the quills, the fifth being longest in P. Gairdnerii, the fourth in P. pubescens.

GAIRDNER'S WOODPECKER, Picus Gairdnerii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 317.

Length, 6 8/12; wing, 3 10/12.

Columbia river.

Adult Male.

Bill longish, straight, strong, tapering, angular, slightly compressed, and at the tip truncate; mandibles of equal length, both straight in their outline, the ridge of the upper very narrow, its sides sloping, the lateral ridge nearer the margin; the nostrils linear-oblong, basal, concealed by tufts of reversed bristly feathers.

Head of moderate size, ovate; neck short. Feet short, rather strong; tarsus with a few large scutella before, thin-edged behind, with a series of large scales along the inner side; two toes before, two behind, the fourth or outer reversed toe considerably longer than the third, the first very short; claws strong, much compressed, well curved, very acute, those of the third and fourth toes nearly equal and largest.

Plumage very soft and blended; feathers of the middle part of the back very long and downy. Wings large, rounded, the first quill eight-twelfths long, the second an inch and seven-twelfths longer, the third seven and a quarter twelfths longer than the second, and three-quarters of a twelfth shorter than the fourth, which is slightly exceeded by the fifth, the sixth a little shorter than the fourth; secondaries very broad, truncate. Tail rather long, cuneate, of ten feathers, of which the lateral are eight-twelfths shorter than the middle, all more or less slit at the point.

Bill greyish-blue, somewhat dusky above; feet bluish-grey; claws light blue, dusky at the end. The top of the head is black, as are a broad band behind the eye, part of the loral space, a band below the cheek, as well as the scapulars, wings, and four middle tail-feathers; there is a band of white, over each eye, enlarging on the occiput and terminating in a broad band of bright crimson running across that part; another white band from below the eye, curving behind the ears, nearly meeting on the hind neck; the wings barred with squareish spots of white, and tipped with the same, there being on the outer webs of the third and fourth primaries five spots on the outer and four on the inner web; most of the coverts are also tipped with a white spot; a broad band of white down the middle of the back, the lateral tail-feathers are white, with two bars of black toward the end, and the base of the inner web of the same colour; the next feather is similar, with more black at the base, and on both webs; the next black, with the terminal half of the outer web, a bar on the inner, and its tip white; the lower surface is white, but much soiled and of a dull greyish-brown tint, the lower tail-coverts with a slightly dusky spot toward the end.

Length to end of tail 6 8/12 inches; bill along the ridge (8 1/4)/12; wing from flexure 3 10/12; tail 2 1/2.

Between this and P. pubescens there is no difference as to colour, only the spots on the wings of the latter are much larger. Most individuals of P. pubescens have the same number of spots on the longer quills, but others have an additional pair.

A figure of this species will, if possible, be given at the end of the work.

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