Jane’s Deck of Birds – Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are the best known Woodpeckers in North America.  You can find them throughout Canada and the USA.  They are smallest woodpecker in North America measuring only 6-7 inches.  Downies have a white breast, black cheek, black wings with white spots, and a white patch on it’s back.   The male has a solid red patch on its head which distinguishes him from the female as she doesn’t have one.  Some people confuse the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker as they look similar.  The Hairy Woodpecker is larger measuring 9 1/2 inches in length and has a much longer beak.

Photo Credits – Jane Paradis

Downies are curious birds who are eager to check out any kind of feeder.  They particularly like peanut halves, sunflower seed, suet, and peanut butter. The Brome Bird Care Peanut Plus is a favorite of theirs, and it keeps the squirrels away. Downies can become quite tame, to the point of being able to hand feed.  Putting peanut butter on pine cones and sprinkling with bird seed is a great way to teach children about feeding the woodpeckers.  Downies have even been known to check out hummingbird feeders for the sweet nectar.  Their long tongue enables them to do this.

Photo Credits – Luke Schobert

Downies will also use a bird house with a small 1 1/4 inch opening.  They should be mounted 8 to 10 feet from the ground.  Using a baffle to prevent predators from taking the eggs is always wise.  Don’t forget to clean the boxes out at the end of nesting season.  Birds may use them for shelter in the winter so it’s also a good idea to clean them out in the spring too.

Downies can be seen at backyard feeders, and in parks and woodlots.  You may see them in mixed flocks with nuthatches and chickadees.  Listen for their short ‘pik’ and drumming call as they communicate with each other.

Downy Woodpecker Drumming Call

@Urban Nature Store we have a different variety of feeders, seeds, jewelry, outdoor equipment and holiday gifts for all nature lovers and for all ages. 
Bird of the week – Downy Woodpecker – check out downy products

Happy birding! 

Author – Jane Paradis

Editor – Daniel Oommen

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