Thursday, August 29, 2013

Knock, Knock - Who's There?

The Hagerman NWR Bird Check List includes 8 species of woodpeckers:  Red-headed, Red-bellied, Ladder-backed, Downy, Hairy and Pileated woodpeckers, Yellow bellied Sapsucker and Northern Flicker.  The Red-bellied and the Downy are listed as likely to be seen in suitable habitats all year around at the Refuge.   Let’s take a look today at the smallest of the bunch, the Downy Woodpecker.

Think checkerboard when you think of the Downy.  Here is a description from Cornell’s All About Birds: 
Downy Woodpeckers give a checkered black-and-white impression. The black upper parts are checked with white on the wings, the head is boldly striped, and the back has a broad white stripe down the center. Males have a small red patch on the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are typically white with a few black spots.
Downy Woodpecker at HNWR.

The site goes on to discuss differentiating Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, whose appearances are very similar but the Hairy is much larger with  a much  larger bill.  Cornell gives tips for distinguishing the two visually at Project Feeder Watch. 

Downy Woodpecker at HNWR.
Look for the Downy in open woodlands and brushy edges.  The abundance of dead trees around Dead Woman Pond provides a good habitat for all the woodpeckers at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  And, according to Cornell, the Downy is the most likely of the woodpeckers to visit  the backyard  feeder, where their  preferred diet is suet, followed by sunflower seeds, peanuts,  and other seeds.

Downy at backyard feeder.

Photos of Downy Woodpeckers by Dick Malnory

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