Description of the Downy Woodpecker
The sexes are largely similar, though females lack a red nape.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles have pinkish or red foreheads.
Downy Woodpeckers inhabit forests, parks, woodlands, and wooded riparian areas.
Downy Woodpeckers eat insects.
Downy Woodpeckers forage on trunks and limbs of trees, saplings, and weed stalks.
Downy Woodpeckers are resident across nearly all of the U.S. and southern Canada, except for the southwestern U.S. The population appears to be stable.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Downy Woodpecker.
The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.
- Above: male, adult, western Washington, May; middle: male, adult, eastern Washington, Dec.; below: female, adult, Nebraska, Dec.
- Male, adult, Washington, May
- From below
Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in the U.S or Canada.
Unlike the very similar but larger Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpeckers will forage on slender plants such as weed stalks.
Calls include a sharp "pik" and an accelerating "kikikiki".