- Dryobates pubescens
Length: 15–17 cm (6-6¾ inches) (smallest woodpecker in North America.)
- Very small black and white woodpecker
- Very short bill
- Mostly black head set off by broad white supercilium and lower border to auriculars
- Black nape
- White back
- Black wings with white spotting on coverts and flight feathers
- White underparts
- Black rump
- Black tail with white outer tail feathers barred with black
Adult male: Red spot on nape
Downy Woodpecker has a much smaller, stubbier bill. Hairy Woodpecker lacks dark markings on its outer tail feathers that the Downy has. (This field mark is less useful in the Northwest where darker races of both species exist and these marks are usually present). Hairy usually has a black dividing line at the rear through the red (male) or white area just below the crown, while 99% of Downy Woodpeckers lack that dividing line.
Placed in genus Dryobates by Gill and Donsker.
There are 6 subspecies:
- D. p. pubescens:
- D. p. medianus:
- D. p. leucurus:
- D. p. glacialis:
- Coastal south-eastern Alaska
- Coastal south-eastern Alaska
- D. p. gairdnerii:
- D. p. turati:
Their breeding habitat is forested areas, mainly deciduous, across most of North America to Central America.
The Downy is a familiar bird in its range, especially in winter, when many move into the suburbs and feed on suet at bird feeders. It is often seen in the mixed flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, creepers, and kinglets that gather in the woods during migration and winter.
As with other woodpeckers, the male is larger than the female and chisels deep into wood with its longer, stronger bill, whereas the female pries under the bark with her shorter bill. Thus a pair is able to share the food resources without competing with one another.
They nest in a tree cavity, excavated by the nesting pair in a dead tree or limb.
A quiet pik or a descending rattle. Both sexes drum on trees to claim territories, attract mates, and signal readiness for mating. The drumming is very rapid and steady, almost rendering into a single uninterrupted sound.
Resident in most of range. Northern and montane populations are partially migratory or disperse over longer distances.
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- Another clue for identifying Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers - Sibley Guides
- Jackson, J. A. and H. R. Ouellet (2020). Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens), 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.dowwoo.01
- Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/56234 on 1 May 2020).
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2019. All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://www.allaboutbirds.org Accessed on 1 May 2020
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2022) Downy Woodpecker. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 28 September 2022 from https://www.birdforum.net/opus/Downy_Woodpecker
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