Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Year Downy Woodpecker

If you ever get a chance to closely observe Downy (and other) Woodpeckers closely, note their primary coverts. These are the feathers that cover the outer flight feathers.  Notice in these photographs that these feathers are not as jet-black as either the flight feathers or the other feathers near them. This dullness of color indicates a bird born in the immediate past breeding season. The reason for this color differences is that North American Woodpeckers retain their juvenile primary coverts even after they molt their other wing feathers.


  1. I made my way here via the MOU listserv.
    I think I'm going to learn plenty here! With your permission I would like to add your blog to my sidebar. I'll be back.

  2. I'm afraid I disagree with your ID point. Mark Newstrom has been studying Downy and Hairy Woodpecker molt and can ID age classes in these 2 species by feather wear but it is opposite what you might think. In the fall pp covs that DO NOT contrast with the primaries and greater covs are an indication of a young bird. Slightly lighter pp covs due to wear are indications of an older bird. Mark can use this characteristic to age birds up to ATY depending on the symetry of the wear pattern. I'm sure Mark could explain this much better than I. His e-mail is MNewstrom@threeriversparkdistrict.org

  3. My source for this information is Peter Pyle's "Identification Guide to North American Birds Part I" page 165.