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December 10, 2011 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Downy Woodpecker

The acrobatic little Downy Woodpecker can be found across most of the US and Canada and is one of the most familiar woodpeckers. They are year-round residents and do not migrate. They don’t mind people and will readily come to backyard feeders. The ones that frequent my yard are especially fond of suet and peanuts.

They are a small black and white bird with a black bill and can often be seen moving along tree trunks and limbs. You can usually hear them before you see them with their drumming on trees and whinnying call. Like most birds they are more vocal during the breeding season but I hear them making a pik pik pik call all year round. When flying they have a distinctive, bouncy rising-and-falling flight style as they swoop into the trees.

Males and females look alike except for a red patch on the back of the head of the male. The bird above is a female and the one to the left is a male.

Before I lost my mature elm trees last year to Dutch Elm disease I had several families of woodpeckers in those trees everyday. I saw five different species of woodpeckers in the elms that summer.

The bird on the right is a juvenile, a few months old. Juveniles are distinguished by the red cap on the top of their heads.

One afternoon I came home to find a male woodpecker sitting at the top of the feeder pole with three youngsters. He was showing them the suet and I imagine explaining to them that this is where they can find food.

One of the reasons I leave my feeders up during the summer, even though seeds and bugs are plentiful, is to watch the adults bring their fledglings to the feeder and teach them to eat by themselves.


I link up my bird photos on Saturday Snapshot hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.



Leave a Comment
  1. Louise / Dec 10 2011 3:47 am

    Oh what beautiful birds. I love that top picture. I was very keen to see (or hear) some woodpeckers on my recent trip to America. Sadly I didn’t get to see any.


  2. Paulita / Dec 10 2011 6:28 am

    I never would have recognized the female as being a woodpecker. Isn’t that silly? Thanks for the explanation. My husband has asked for another bird feeder for Christmas. Maybe I’ll suggest we try the suet. Here’s Mine


    • Leslie / Dec 10 2011 12:32 pm

      A peanut feeder is a good choice too. I was surprised at the number of birds it attracts.


  3. Staci / Dec 10 2011 7:07 am

    I’m glad to find a fellow lover of these beautiful birds! I have several and it makes my heart happy whenever they come to my yard. I love your pictures of them!


  4. Trish / Dec 10 2011 7:33 am

    Ohhh lovely! Their black and white markings are so striking. What a great reason to leave your feeder up during the summer. We always talk about leaving it up but then never do. Maybe we should start . . .


    • Leslie / Dec 10 2011 8:30 pm

      You might want to try it. I had cardinals and sparrows actually feeding the young ones on the seed feeder tray.


  5. kaye / Dec 10 2011 8:04 am

    fantastic shots! I love to see the woodpeckers but I hate to be woken up at the crack of dawn when one of them decides to start drilling on the aluminum soffit. Arrrgh!


    • Leslie / Dec 10 2011 8:31 pm

      For such little birds they drum the trees the loudest.


  6. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea / Dec 10 2011 8:12 am

    I saw several of these this summer, but not now. Very good captures.


  7. LindyLouMac in Italy / Dec 10 2011 8:27 am

    Calling by as another Saturday Snapshot participant, lovely woodpecker photos. We have some in our garden but not this particular type.


  8. BermudaOnion / Dec 10 2011 8:30 am

    They’re beautiful, but we’re not fans of woodpeckers around here since we had one do quite a bit of damage to our house.


  9. Jayme@Beachreader / Dec 10 2011 8:54 am

    Whenever I think of woodpeckers it’s always the redheaded woodpecker. These little guys are really cute.


  10. laurelrainsnow / Dec 10 2011 9:42 am

    They are beautiful birds! I used to be annoyed with them, though, when I lived in the foothills. They were incessantly pecking…lol. The sound was a bit startling at times.

    Thanks for sharing.



  11. Lisa / Dec 10 2011 11:56 am

    That’s a fabulous picture! Such a pretty bird. And I’m jealous — I had to take my birdfeeders down because they drew more cats than birds!

    Here’s my snapshot.


  12. smellincoffee / Dec 10 2011 11:58 am

    That contrasted coloring certainly gives them a vivid appearance!


  13. Alyce / Dec 10 2011 12:42 pm

    The one in the first photo is my favorite – absolutely gorgeous!


  14. Anne / Dec 10 2011 2:02 pm

    Your work is amazing. I want to learn to be able to take such bird shots as these. WOW!


  15. Amy / Dec 10 2011 3:30 pm

    What beautiful birds, the black and white coloring is great! And very stylish! lol I love that the juveniles have a red cap, just like little boys wearing read baseball caps!

    I wouldn’t have known this was a woodpecker. For some reason I thought they were plain birds.

    Your story about coming home to see dad and 3 little ones on the bird feeder is so cute!


  16. Leeswammes / Dec 10 2011 6:13 pm

    Such beautiful birds! And how nice that you used to get so many species. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one up close.


  17. LegacyQ / Dec 13 2011 9:23 am

    I love Downeys! Our woods are full of woodpeckers–downeys, red-bellies, flickers, and pileateds–but no red-headeds. I’ve never seen one and would love to! Nice to meet a fellow bird lover!


  18. Moni / Nov 1 2021 3:32 pm

    Greatt post thankyou


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