Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common woodpeckers seen in backyards across all of the lower 48 states (except portions of some southwestern states), most of Canada and much of Alaska too. This one is a male as indicated by the red patch seen on the back of it’s head.
Downy Woodpeckers are often seen clinging to tree branches and tree trunks as they use their beaks to chisel between the bark. Though they are primarily insect eaters they will come to feeders for black-oil sunflower seeds, peanuts or suet. And they have been known to steal some sugar-water from hummingbird or oriole feeders too.
The smaller cousin to their look-alike but larger Hairy Woodpecker, they do differ from them in the following ways:
- The bill on a Downy Woodpecker is only about one-third as long as the width of it’s head while the bill on a Hairy Woodpecker is about as long as the width.
- The white outer tail feathers on Downy Woodpeckers usually have black barring going across them (though this wears off with wear) while those feathers are all white on Hairy Woodpeckers.
- Downy Woodpeckers have a conspicuous tuft of feathers at the base of their beaks (best seen in photo below) that is not found on Hairy Woodpeckers.
- Downy Woodpeckers have a weaker and kind of squeaky call while the Hairy Woodpeckers have a strong, loud call. Listen to their calls on the Audubon Guides website.
Downy Woodpeckers come to my yard more in the winter maybe because I don’t feed as much during summer months here in Colorado. Though they feed mostly on my trees, they also like my peanut feeder (always feed raw, unsalted peanuts) and my suet feeder, I have had them come in the summer and drink from my hummingbird feeder.
Do you get Downy Woodpeckers in your yard?
Do they come to any of your feeders?