Downy or Hairy Woodpecker

Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are widely distributed across North America. Both commonly visit feeder areas where they feed on suet and sometimes seeds. These woodpeckers are the only common woodpeckers that show a vertical white stripe on the back. Males of both species have a red patch on the back of the head. Juveniles may have a wash of red, orange, or (rarely) yellow on the crown.
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Overall size and bill size and shape are the most useful characters for distinguishing the two species in the wild. There are subtle plumage features that can also be useful when a good closeup view is possible.Project Feeder Watch


I found this little guy on a tree in the back yard that had been struck by lightening last spring.  Most of the tree has died and it’s limbs are just right for the little woodpecker to get it’s meal from.  Insects and worms living in the dead tree limb are a feast.

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The Downy woodpecker is way more abundant than the Hairy Woodpecker.

The Hairy Woodpecker will have all outer white tail feathers compared to the Downy’s spotted feathers. Also the male Hairy’s red patch on the back of it’s head is split in two while the Downy’s is not.

I hope this gives a little more insight on how to distinguish between these two beautiful birds.  If you have any dead trees or tree limbs in your yard take time to look for these little birds they are such fun to watch.


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