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Bird Feeding Tips

Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.

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The Delightful Downy – Part 1 of 2

Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds
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Our Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of the North American woodpeckers and one of the easiest birds to attract to your feeders. It gets the “downy” part of its name from the short, soft feathers around its nostrils. With its black-and-white colors and friendly disposition, the downy is welcome to any yard. The male has a distinctive red patch on the back of its head, the female does not.


These fascinating birds are found throughout most of North America. Many people like attracting downies because they eat insects such as beetles, moths, ants, tent caterpillars and aphids.


In spring and summer, downies are often seen in pairs. In winter, they are more solitary but are often seen in mixed flocks with chickadees, nuthatches, and other smaller birds. The contact call of the downy is a short, flat “peek”. My downies often sound this call just before visiting your feeders.

From late winter through midsummer, we may hear the loud rapid drumming of downies. Sounding like an unbroken “trrrrr” and lasting several seconds, drumming is a way of identifying territory and attracting a mate. Sometimes downies drum on highly resonant surfaces such as gutters, flashing, or metal chimneys. The louder the drumming, the more impressive the downy to other members of its species.
Next time: more drumming, mates, nesting and attracting these delightful little birds to your yard.

I am delighted to join the Birdzilla team through this blog, sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard. Bird feeding is my life-long passion,  instilled by bird-feeding parents who raised me on an 80-acre farm in central Michigan.  After college, my wife and I served as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer high-school teachers in Africa and then as staff members over an eight-year period.
Those wonderful times led to 30-years of bird-feeding leadership as founder of the Wild Bird Centers, franchising and supporting wild bird specialty stores across the country. I helped found the Bird Education Network and was a key financial supporter of PROJECT WILDBIRD, I currently serve as Executive Director of the National Bird-Feeding Society. Several years ago, I was asked to join “The Birder’s Team”, a working group of birding leaders selected by the National Wildlife Refuge System to recommend ways to better serve birders. millions of whom visit our extraordinary network of more than 500 Refuges. These “conservation jewels” actively protect critical habitat and conserve bird populations of all kinds. Most recently, I served as a judge to select the winning artist for the NWRS’ 2015 Duck Stamp Contest.

I now look forward to helping our readers experience the best our wonderful hobby offers. As I often say “The closer we live to each other, the closer we want to be to Nature.”

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