Leuconotopicus villosus villosus, L. v. monticola
Status: Common regular resident west, fairly common central and east. Rare regular winter visitor west.
Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM6321, 12 Dec 1895 Fort Robinson, Sioux Co.
Taxonomy: There have been several recent changes in assignment of woodpeckers to genera. Leuconotopicus includes species previously assigned to Picoides (Fuchs and Pons 2015, Gill and Donsker 2017, Chesser et al 2018): Red-cockaded, Smoky-brown (of Mexico and South America), Arizona, Strickland’s (of central Mexico), Hairy, and White-headed.
Seventeen subspecies are recognized, 11 of which occur north of Mexico (Gill et al 2021). Pyle (1997) separated 10 subspecies into four groups; the Interior Western Group contained subspecies septentrionalus including monticola, but Jackson et al (2020) and Gill et al (2021) retained monticola separate from septentrionalus, which we follow for reasons of simplicity in understanding ranges. Subspecies monticola winters south to Nebraska. Pyle’s (1997) Eastern Group consisted of terranovae of Newfoundland, villosus, breeding west to Central North Dakota and northern Texas, and audubonii, breeding east of villosus, from southern Illinois to eastern Texas.
Nebraska breeding birds are presumed villosus; earlier authors suggested that monticola may be resident in northwest Nebraska as it is in the Black Hills of South Dakota (Bruner et al 1904, AOU 1957), but it is more likely that it occurs only as a winter visitor; it occurs at Barr Lake, Colorado, late Aug-early May, where local breeding birds are villosus (Andrews et al 2002).
Nebraska records of monticola may be increasing. A female was in a Scotts Bluff Co yard 3 Feb 2013-17 May 2014 and again 1 Jan and 7 Feb 2015, 9 Jan 2016, and 25 Oct 2020 through 6 Feb 2021 (Kathy DeLara, personal communication). Two were at Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co 26 May 2021. Singles were at Box Butte Reservoir, Dawes Co 24 May 2016 and 25 May 2021. One was photographed at Wildcat Hills NC, Scotts Bluff Co 16 Jun 2019, and in Carter Canyon there were single males 15 Aug and 20 Nov 2020, two males 30 Nov 2020, a single male 23 Jun 2022, and another 10 Feb 2023. Two, including at least one male, were in southwestern Kimball Co 13 Oct 2020.
Possible occurrence of septentrionalis in winter in Nebraska is discussed under Winter.
Hybridization with Downy Woodpecker is discussed at Hybrids – Birds of Nebraska – Online (outdoornebraska.gov).
Resident: The preferred habitat for this species is mature forest, and so in summer it is most numerous in the east but is distributed evenly over the rest of the state in lesser numbers. BBS data (1967-77) indicate that this species is far more common in the east than elsewhere. In winter and during migration periods it occurs statewide in virtually all arboreal habitats; at this season it is often found in cities and towns.
- Breeding Phenology
Eggs: 20 May-16 Jul (Mollhoff 2022)
Nestlings: 10 May-21 Jun
Fledglings: 25 Jun-11 Jul
- An egg date 16 Jul may have been a renesting attempt Mollhoff 2022).
- High counts: 12 at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 1 Apr 2017, 12 in Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co 19 Oct 2019, 11 at Harlan County Reservoir, Harlan Co 19 Mar 2010, and 11 at Fontenelle Forest 3 Apr 2010.
- Breeding Phenology
Winter: Although this species is usually considered to be resident, there is “evidence to indicate a general southward movement in fall; the individuals seen in winter are probably not the same as those seen in summer” (Bent 1939). Jackson et al (2020) state that there is no evidence that true migration occurs but cite several examples of influxes of northern subspecies including septentrionalus. Altitudinal movement of the Rocky Mountain (and Black Hills) birds, monticola, occurs in fall and spring, with these birds appearing on the Colorado plains in winter (Andrews and Righter 1992, Andrews et al 2002) and presumably also in western Nebraska. Interestingly, CBC data indicate even distribution across the state, in contrast to the summer concentration in the east indicated by BBS data, suggesting an influx into western Nebraska in at least early winter. Rosche (1982) stated that Hairy Woodpecker is more numerous in winter in the northwest, but that no winter influx was noted further east in the Keith Co area (Rosche 1994).
BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
CBC: Christmas Bird Count
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
Andrews, R., and R. Righter. 1992. Colorado birds. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Colorado, USA.
American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed. Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Bent, A.C. 1939. Life histories of North American woodpeckers. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 174. Dover Publications Reprint 1964, New York, New York, USA.
Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Chesser, R.T., K.J. Burns, C. Cicero, J.L. Dunn, A.W. Kratter, I.J. Lovette, P.C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, Jr., D.F. Stotz, B.M. Winger, and K. Winker. 2018. Fifty-ninth Supplement to the American Ornithological Society’s Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 135: 798-813.
Fuchs, J., and J-M. Pons. 2015. A new classification of the Pied Woodpeckers assemblage (Dendropicini, Picidae) based on a comprehensive multi-locus phylogeny. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 88: 28-37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.03.016.
Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.
Gill, F., D. Donsker, and P. Rasmussen (Eds). 2021. IOC World Bird List (v 11.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.11.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
Jackson, J.A., H.R. Ouellet, and B.J. Jackson. 2020. Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.haiwoo.01.
Mollhoff, W.J. 2022. Nest records of Nebraska birds. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Paper Number 9.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.
Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska. Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2023. Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus ). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 14 Mar 2023