Downy Woodpecker

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is the smallest woodpecker in North America. It is common across most of North America north of Mexico except for the Southwest, with a range extending from Alaska and most of Canada south to the Gulf Coast. Downy Woodpeckers winter throughout most of the breeding range. They are found in deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous woodland, riparian woodland, second growth, parks, orchards, and suburbs. Downy woodpeckers are common visitors to bird feeders. The male has a red hindcrown spot that is not present in the female. Downy Woodpeckers feed mainly on a wide variety of insects.They also eat seeds and berries and will take suet at bird feeders. When feeding on trees, Downy Woodpeckers tend to do more tapping and excavating in winter and more gleaning of insects from surfaces in summer. In fall and winter, the male and female maintain separate feeding areas, with pairs forming by late winter. The male and female take turns drumming loudly on dead limbs in their separate territories, with the male gradually approaching the female. The nest site is a cavity excavated by both sexes. The cavity entrance is often surrounded by fungus or lichen, which helps to camouflage the site. The white eggs are incubated by both sexes for around 12 days. Both parents bring billfulls of insects to feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest around 20 to 25 days after hatching, but may follow parents for several weeks after that. Although these woodpeckers are permanent residents over much of their range, the northernmost populations may move significantly southward in winter. Some birds in the mountains of the West may move down into valleys (as well as short distances to the south) in winter. (Confer and Paicos 1985; Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)

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  • Title: Downy Woodpecker
  • Type: Taxidermy Specimen
  • Rights: This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws. http://www.si.edu/termsofuse
  • External Link: https://dcbirds.si.edu/bird/downy-woodpecker
  • Scientific Name: <i>Picoides pubescens</i>
  • Photo Credit: David Price, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Field: Vertebrate Zoology