Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Downy Woodpecker

On a frigid day this week, this Downy Woodpecker was “frozen” at the suet feeder. A predator must have been lurking nearby. Fluffed up as the bird was, it was hard to tell the breast from the back. The wing runs down the center of the bird. 

Another interesting note: unlike most Downy Woodpeckers, this bird lacks black spots on its white outer tail feathers. These woodpeckers can often be differentiated from the larger Hairy Woodpecker by the Downy’s dark-spotted outer tail feathers. Sibleycorrectly cautions that not all Downy’s show these spots.


  1. One plumage distinction I've noticed in my backyard (though I first saw it on Sibley's blog) was that Hairys have the black from their caps connected by a black stripe down the back of their back to the black on their napes. Downys do not. So a male Hairy has two red spots separated by black, while a male Downy (like in these photos) has a solid red patch.

    I keep forgetting to pay attention to the tail feathers.

  2. The pattern on the back of woodpecker heads seems to me to be very variable. Dan

    1. compare this Downy with the one on my previous post:

    2. Thanks for the correction. I've really only been paying close attention this winter, but it's been 100% true on the backyard birds I've remembered to look at that for. I thought it was an interesting quirk, and it's much more visible than tail-spots to me.