Friday, October 21, 2011

Downy and Hairy Woodpecker

I have written about Hairy and Downy woodpeckers several times in this blog, including on 5 March 2010, when I discussed identification of these woodpeckers. In South Dakota, Downys outnumbered Hairys about 10 to one. I assume similar ratios exist here in Minnesota. Generally Downys forage on small, outer tree branches while Hairys specialize on larger branches nearer the trunks.

The first photo is of a female Downy Woodpecker. The second is of a  male Hairy. Curiously many studies indicate these similar appearing species are not closely related. Downy Woodpeckers may be most closely related to Ladder-backed or Nuttall's woodpeckers and one of the few genetic studies with Hairy Woodpeckers indicated a close relationship with Latin American Smokey-brown Woodpeckers (Jackson and Ouellet 2002).

I write about these woodpeckers again because, during the past week, surprisingly I caught a few unbanded individuals. A small fraction of resident woodpeckers show seasonal wanderings, but these movements may be examples of dispersal rather than migration and, in any case, are not well understood (Jackson and Ouellet 2002).

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