Friday, October 11, 2013

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of the North American woodpeckers.  Due to his size, he is able to access food in places a larger bird cannot.  For example, from the stalk of a Yucca plant, as seen below.

This Downy Woodpecker is using his straight chisel-like bill to penetrate and probe into holes, galls and other soft areas of the stalk, plucking out insects and insect larvae.
Downy Woodpeckers also eat berries, acorns, seeds and grains.  They enjoy suet and black sunflower seeds that people put out for them.
About the size of a sparrow, Downy Woodpeckers are 6-7 inches long.  (Fun fact!  The black and white feather pattern of each individual bird is unique, sort of like fingerprints.)  The male has a red mark on the back of his head.  
Habitat:  open woodlands, among deciduous trees, orchards, weedy areas, parks, backyards, found in most of the US and Canada.
Though usually year round residents of their territory,  occasionally the Downy Woodpecker will migrate.  Sometimes one of a pair will migrate and the other will not.  The pairs aren't close during non breeding times.  In winter, many Downy Woodpeckers join a mixed species flock. 
In spring, the birds pair up.  You'll hear drumming on trees and a whinnying call.  These sounds are the pair communicating with each other.  Indeed, the drumming is not about pecking for food -they don't make much noise doing that- they drum to make noise.  Other courtship activity involves flying between trees together in butterfly fashion.
The nest is a cavity in dead trees or in dead sections of live trees.  (It's easier to carve out a nest in soft or fungus-infected wood.) 
clutch size:  3-8 eggs
incubation:  12 days
nestling:  18-21 days
fledgling:  up to 21 days
Number of broods:  1  


  1. Lovely birds that make quite a racket if I remember them correctly. Do you remember the Woody Woodpecker cartoons?

  2. I didn't know woodpeckers could get that small!

  3. We have Woody the Woodpecker look-a-likes in my neighborhood.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  4. Thanks for posting this, Lynn--I haven't seen a woodpecker in years!