Description 6" Black and white woodpecker. Small red patch on
nape in males. Similar to Hairy Woodpecker, but smaller and with
short, stubby bill. Juveniles look like adults but may have red on
Habitat Generally prefers deciduous environments; broadleaved
and mixed forests, especially those with black cottonwood and
willow. They are also often found in residential areas, along rivers
and streams, and in orchards, city parks, and even agricultural areas
as long as there are sufficient trees nearby.
Diet Insects, especially beetles and ants, are the main food of
Downy Woodpeckers. They also feed on berries, seeds, and suet.
Nesting Downy Woodpeckers form monogamous breeding pairs
in late winter. Both members of the pair excavate nesting and
roosting holes in soft or rotten wood. They often situate their cavity
entrance in a spot surrounded by lichen or fungus, which helps to
camouflage the hole.
Both parents incubate the 4 to 5 white eggs for about 12 days, and
both feed the young. The young leave the nest after 20 to 25 days but
follow the parents around for a few weeks thereafter. Each pair
typically raises one brood a year.
Range Resident from Alaska across Canada, south throughout
United States except Southwest.
Downy Woodpeckers are permanent residents in most areas, but
the northernmost populations may move some distance south or to
lower elevations in the winter. During winter, they may be found in
orchards and other wooded areas where they do not breed,
indicating some seasonal movement.
Voice A quiet pik. Also a descending rattle.
Discussion The Downy is a familiar bird in its range, especially
in winter, when many move into the suburbs and feed on suet at bird
feeders. It is often seen in the mixed flocks of chickadees,
nuthatches, creepers, and kinglets that gather in the woods during
migration and winter.
As with other woodpeckers, the male is larger than the female and
chisels deep into wood with its longer, stronger bill, whereas the
female pries under the bark with her shorter bill. Thus a pair is able
to share the food resources without competing with one another.
My first sighting, January 26, 2006. I saw the male first and as he flew away, the
female above flew in.