About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Order: PICIFORMES Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Description
Downy Woodpeckers are a little over six inches in length with a white chest, black and white dotted wings and a white patch on their back. They have a black head with a white stripe above the eye and another white stripe near the bill. They have a black tail with white outer feathers and small dark bars on the edges. They have a small, pointed bill. The male has a small red patch on the back of the head that the females doesn't. The juveniles will sometimes have a small red patch on their forehead.

General
The second part of their scientific name, "pubescens", refers to the white tuft of nasal bristles near the bill. These modified feathers help protect the nasal cavity from debris that is formed by chiseling and hammering on the bark of trees. As the smallest North American woodpecker, the Downy can drill cavities in dead trees or limbs that measure as little as 10 cm around. This means that they can live in a wider range of habitat than can larger woodpeckers. They live throughout the United States and are found year-round as far north-west as Alaska and as far south as the tip of Florida

Behavior
Downy Woodpeckers are fascinating to watch as they propel themselves up the side of a tree, using their tail as a spring, hopping along, stopping from time to time to investigate a nook or cranny that may hide a juicy insect. Their bill is less chisel-shaped than that of other woodpeckers, and they use it like a pick for dissecting insect tunnels just under the bark. The bill is also used like a pair of tweezers to pick tiny insect eggs from the surface of leaves and bark.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love watching these little guys at my feeders, I have so many pictures of them.