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Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens


"Size & Shape:: Downy Woodpeckers are small versions of the classic woodpecker body plan. They have a straight, chisel-like bill, blocky head, wide shoulders, and straight-backed posture as they lean away from tree limbs and onto their tail feathers. The bill tends to look smaller for the bird’s size than in other woodpeckers. Color Pattern:: Downy Woodpeckers give a checkered black-and-white impression. The black upperparts are checked with white on the wings, the head is boldly striped, and the back has a broad white stripe down the center. Males have a small red patch on the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are typically white with a few black spots. Behavior:: Downy Woodpeckers hitch around tree limbs and trunks or drop into tall weeds to feed on galls, moving more acrobatically than larger woodpeckers. Their rising-and-falling flight style is distinctive of many woodpeckers. In spring and summer, Downy Woodpeckers make lots of noise, both with their shrill whinnying call and by drumming on trees."


"You’ll find Downy Woodpeckers in open woodlands, particularly among deciduous trees, and brushy or weedy edges. They’re also at home in orchards, city parks, backyards and vacant lots."


This is a female (no red on the head).

1 Species ID Suggestions

Liam 11 years ago
Hairy Woodpecker
Picoides villosus Hairy Woodpecker

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Veetorious 11 years ago

I'm not an expert birder, and I know that Downy and Hairy are very similar... I thought this was a Downy because there were other woodpeckers that seemed to have longer bills and by comparison, I thought this one was a Downy. Maybe this was just a smaller Hairy!

Liam 11 years ago

In the last photo, note how long the bill is, if you measure the bill with your fingers, it is about 3/4 the size of the head, too long for Downy. Also in the second photo you can see the outer retrice (tail) feathers, which lack the black markings found on Downy.

Spotted by

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Spotted on Feb 12, 2011
Submitted on Jan 13, 2012

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