Why Downy Woodpeckers Are The Friendliest Woodpeckers

This little tree dweller shows up just about everywhere.

This story is brought to you by BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Coast to coast, border to border, forest to feeder, the Downy Woodpecker goes about its business in 49 states. It turns up everywhere there are trees, except Hawaii and in the dry deserts of the Southwest. 

The Downy is the smallest woodpecker in the United States. It might have been named by comparing it to its larger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker, which looks quite similar. Where the Downy has soft, fluffy feathers, especially at the back of its head, the Hairy’s feathers look stiff and bristly. 

The flash of red on the woodpecker’s head brings a bit of cheer to your winter feeder. It’s the male that has the red; the female sports only black and white feathers. And there’s another difference: The female searches for insects and other tasty tidbits on large limbs and the trunk of a tree, while the male works farther out, on smaller branches. But add a suet cake to your winter bird banquet, and you’ll probably bring the Downy Woodpecker right up close. 

To download this podcast, go to birdnote.org. For tips on how to tell Downy and Hairy woopeckers apart, check out this handy ID guide.

Sounds of the Downy Woodpecker provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call and rattle recorded by W.W.H. Gunn, Drum call by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Ambient track provided by John Kessler Productions.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer:  Chris Peterson

Written by Ellen Blackstone

© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org     December 2012/2016     Narrator: Mary McCann


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