|Species: Downy Woodpecker
Woodpecker is our smallest woodpecker. The initial impression is a
checkered black and white bird, with Pacific Northwest birds tending
to have a darker wash overall. Smallish songbird-sized at first
glance, the Downy has a classic woodpecker form, with a chisel-like
bill, blocky head, wide shoulders, straight back, and is often seen
perching vertically, propping its stiff tail feathers against the
trunk of a tree. Often described as ‘dainty’.
The Downy is a resident bird of most of the US and Canada, with the
exception of the northernmost reaches of the range and parts of the
desert southwest US.
Adults are about 17
centimeters in length, weighing about 27 grams. Black above with a
diagnostic white or whitish back (Among woodpeckers, this narrows it
down to either a Hairy or Downy.) Underparts and flanks white,
usually unmarked. A conspicuous nasal tuft at the base of the upper
bill gives the Downy Woodpecker its name. Bill is small compared to
Red spot on rear of head.
Similar to male, but lacking red spot, may have a slightly darker
Red spot on fore- and top of head making a red cap.
Very similar to the Hairy Woodpecker and it can be hard to
distinguish the two species in the field. Size is the most
diagnostic, and the longer (greater than 1/2 the head) bill of the
Hairy lacks the nasal tuft. The Downy averages about 17 centimeters,
while the Hairy is about 23 centimeters long.
Classic upright woodpecker posture, will often forage on twigs or
weed stalks too small for most woodpeckers. Moves quickly in short
hops and can move horizontally or downward more easily than other
woodpecker species. Flight characteristic of woodpeckers- undulating
with quick wingbeats alternating with folding wings against body.
Open woodlands, comfortable in human-influenced areas such as
orchards, backyards, urban parks, etc.
only structural difference between males and females is tongue
length, which allows the pair to forage in the same area using
different methods on different tree species. The male will peck and
the female will probe. An insect-eater, Downy Woodpeckers are often
seen feeding on weed galls (such as goldenrod) and at backyard
feeders eating sunflower seeds and suet. Cavity nesters, the pair
excavates a nest in a tree or dead shrub and lines it only with wood
chips. Cavities are 15- 30 centimeters deep, but the round entrance
hole is only 2.5 - 4 centimeters wide.
Woodpecker is a species of Least Concern, having adapted well to
human influence. While the Downy prefers open woodlands, it does
well in young forests, such as those that have been recently cleared