Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common woodpeckers sighted in K-Country. These small birds are known for their distinctive black and white feathers. Males have the additional red patch on the backs of their heads.
Downy Woodpeckers are primarily insectivores, feeding on insects that live in the bark and wood of trees. They use their strong beaks to drill small holes into the bark, searching for beetle larvae, ants, and other insects that live inside. They are also known to feed on suet and sunflower seeds at bird feeders, as well as berries and other fruit in the summer months.
These birds are found in a variety of habitats, from open forests and woodlands to suburban parks and gardens. In K-Country, they are most commonly found in mature forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. They are highly adaptable birds. They are able to live in a wide range of conditions, from the extreme cold of a Canadian winter to the heat of a summer day.
Downy, not Hairy
Downy Woodpeckers are often mistaken for Hairy Woodpeckers. While they look similar, there are several key differences that can help you tell them apart:
- Size: Downy Woodpeckers are smaller than Hairy Woodpeckers. Downy’s have a length of around 6 to 7 inches, compared to the Hairy Woodpecker’s length of 7 to 10 inches.
- Beak size: The beak of a Downy Woodpecker is smaller and finer than that of a Hairy Woodpecker, with a length that is proportional to their smaller body size.
- Tail feathers: The tail feathers of a Downy Woodpecker are shorter than those of a Hairy Woodpecker. This gives them a more compact appearance.
- Stripe pattern: Both species have a distinctive black and white stripe pattern. However, the stripe on the head of a Downy Woodpecker is narrower and more centred. The stripe on a Hairy Woodpecker is wider and more offset to one side.
- Calls: The calls of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are different. The Downy Woodpecker has a higher-pitched, more peeping call, while the Hairy Woodpecker has a deeper, more resonant call.
- Habitat: Hairy Woodpeckers are more likely to be found in large, mature forests. Downy Woodpeckers are more common in smaller, younger forests and in developed areas like campgrounds and day use areas.
One of the most distinctive features of Downy Woodpeckers is their drumming. They use this to communicate with each other and to establish territory. The drumming is a series of rapid, repetitive pecks on a tree or other surface. It is usually accompanied by a loud, distinctive call. These birds are highly social, and are often found in groups, either alone or in pairs.
In addition to their drumming, Downy Woodpeckers are known for their acrobatics. They climb and cling to trees and other surfaces in search of food. They have sharp claws and strong beaks that allow them to climb up, down, and even upside-down on a tree trunk. This makes them perfectly adapted to their tree-dwelling lifestyle.
Downy Woodpeckers play an important role in their ecosystem. They help to control insect populations and spread the seeds of many different species of plants. By pecking into the bark of trees, they create cavities that provide nesting sites for other bird species, such as bluebirds, tree swallows, and chickadees.
Meet more of the critters of K-Country here!