Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Picoides
Species: P. pubescens
Binomial name
Picoides pubescens
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Range of the Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is a species of woodpecker, the smallest in North America.



The female lacks the red patch on the back of the head.

Adult Downy Woodpeckers are mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is a white bar above the eye and one below. They have a black tail with white outer feathers barred with black. Adult males have a red patch on the back of the head whereas juvenile birds display a red cap.

The Downy Woodpecker is virtually identical in plumage pattern to the much larger Hairy Woodpecker, but it can be distinguished from the Hairy by the presence of black spots on its white tail feathers.

The Downy Woodpecker gives a number of vocalizations, including a short pik call. Like other woodpeckers, it also produces a drumming sound with its beak as it pecks into trees. Compared to other North American species its drums are slow.[2]


Despite their close resemblance, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are not very closely related, and they are likely to be separated in different genera;[3][4] the outward similarity is a spectacular example of convergent evolution. Why they evolved this way cannot be explained with confidence; it may be relevant that the species exploit rather different-sized foodstuffs and do not compete very much ecologically.

Ecology and behavior

Their breeding habitat is forested areas, mainly deciduous, across most of North America to Central America. They nest in a tree cavity excavated by the nesting pair in a dead tree or limb.

These birds are mostly permanent residents. Northern birds may migrate further south; birds in mountainous areas may move to lower elevations. Downy Woodpeckers roost in tree cavities in the winter.

Downy Woodpeckers forage on trees, picking the bark surface in summer and digging deeper in winter. They mainly eat insects, also seeds and berries. In winter, especially, Downy Woodpeckers can often be found in suburban backyards with trees and will feed on suet at birdfeeders.



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2009). "Picoides pubescens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-679-45122-8. 
  3. ^ Moore, Andrea; Weibel, Amy C.; Agius (2006). "Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of the woodpecker genus Veniliornis (Picidae, Picinae) and related genera implies convergent evolution of plumage patterns" (PDF). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 87: 611–624. 
  4. ^ Weibel, Amy C.; Moore, William S. (2005). "Plumage convergence in Picoides woodpeckers based on a molecular phylogeny, with emphasis on convergence in downy and hairy woodpeckers". Condor 107 (4): 797–809. doi:10.1650/7858.1. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Downy woodpecker — Down y wood peck*er ( [y^]), n. (Zool.) A small black and white ladder backed woodpecker ({Picoides pubescens}) of Central and Eastern U. S. and Canada. It strongly resembles the hairy woodpecker, but is smaller (6 1/2 ), compared with about 9… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • downy woodpecker — n. a small, black and white North American woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) …   English World dictionary

  • downy woodpecker — pūkuotasis genys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Dendrocopos pubescens; Picoides pubescens angl. downy woodpecker vok. Dunenspecht, m rus. пушистый дятел, m pranc. pic mineur, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – dėmėtieji… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • downy woodpecker — noun Date: 1808 a small black and white woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) of North America that has a white back and is smaller than the hairy woodpecker …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • downy woodpecker — noun small North American woodpecker with black and white plumage and a small bill • Hypernyms: ↑woodpecker, ↑peckerwood, ↑pecker …   Useful english dictionary

  • downy woodpecker — a small, North American woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, having black and white plumage. [1800 10, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • downy woodpecker — down′y wood′pecker n. orn a small black and white North American woodpecker, Picoides pubescens: males have a red head patch • Etymology: 1800–10, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • Woodpecker — Wood peck er, n. (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of scansorial birds belonging to {Picus} and many allied genera of the family {Picid[ae]}. [1913 Webster] Note: These birds have the tail feathers pointed and rigid at the tip to aid in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Woodpecker hornbill — Woodpecker Wood peck er, n. (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of scansorial birds belonging to {Picus} and many allied genera of the family {Picid[ae]}. [1913 Webster] Note: These birds have the tail feathers pointed and rigid at the tip to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • woodpecker — /wood pek euhr/, n. any of numerous climbing birds of the family Picidae, having a hard, chisellike bill that it hammers repeatedly into wood in search of insects, stiff tail feathers to assist in climbing, and usually more or less boldly… …   Universalium

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