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.