Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens)

The Downy Woodpecker:

The smallest of our woodpeckers. About 6-7 inches long and about 2 inches shorter than the look-alike Hairy woodpecker.

With a white back and white underparts its black wings are white spotted and it has a black-and-white-streaked face. The males have red on the nape and females do not.

You'll find these birds in open woodlands, orchards, parks, and backyards.

Feeding Habits:

Woodpeckers feed on insects in the wild. Especially wood-boring insects. Also berries and seed.

You can attract these tree climbing birds to your bird feeding stations if you provide suet for them. They are very fond of peanut butter, peanuts and other nut meats and enjoy sunflower seeds too

By adding a suet feeder, you'll be able to get a close up view of these birds. Additionally, you'll get other bird visitors like Nuthatches and Tufted titmice.

Downy male

Mating Habits:

Downy woodpeckers mate for life and start showing affection in late winter.

Unlike other birds, they aren't real social. You rarely see more than 2 to 4 woodpeckers at a time.

During the breeding season the Downy and other woodpecker species do drumming.

A loud, continuous, very rapid pecking on resonant surfaces such as dead trees, metal and even on houses.

This is done to announce territory and to attract a mate during breeding season.

Nesting Habits:

The male starts excavating its nest cavity in dead wood about 5-50 feet above ground. Once he has a good sized hole going, the female puts the finishing touches to the new nesting sight.

What is a bit interesting is, the Male Downy will let the wood chips and shavings drop to the ground and the Female Downy will take the wood chips and drop them else where as to not advertise a nest sight for predators.

Although they sometimes uses man-made nest boxes, they typically prefer to nest in trees.

The female Downy woodpecker lays 4-5 white eggs which are incubated by both male and female for about 12 days.The young will leave the nest about 28-30 days after hatching.

In southern states they may raise 2 broods each season.

After they fledge, the parents will often bring their offspring to your feeders.

You can tell the young apart from the adults by the bright white on the feathers.

Until fall molt, the adult white is used and dirty looking.

The fledglings will molt as well and the male will have his red cap.

More Common Bird Profiles

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