Description of the Downy Woodpecker


The Downy Woodpecker is a small woodpecker with white underparts, black wings with white markings, two white stripes on the head, and a white back.

The sexes are largely similar, though males have a red nape.


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.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Downy Woodpecker.

Wing Shape

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.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

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".


The Downy Woodpecker’s nest is in an excavated tree cavity.

Number: Usually lay 4-5 eggs.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12 days, and begin to fly in about another 3 weeks, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.