Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

A Downy Woodpecker is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Downy Woodpeckers. We have also put together a list of fun Downy Woodpecker t-shirts, Downy Woodpecker bird patches, bird houses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers and other fun bird watching items.

About the Downy Woodpecker 

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides Pubescens) is one of the smallest and perhaps most familiar woodpeckers found all year round in Canada, Alaska to Southern Florida and the meager riparian forests of Southern California.

Description and Identification

Downy Woodpeckers are ubiquitous and are commonly spotted in the suburbs and backyards. In certain aspects, they look similar to Hairy Woodpeckers but the size of the bill sets them apart; the bills are rather small in the former species. One can easily notice the red mark behind the heads of males which is not seen in females. The upper part of these woodpeckers is white whereas the wings and the backside are grey or black. White spots scattered all over their black tail is a noticeable feature. Presence of white lines is prominent on the upper and lower sides of the birds’ eyes. The high-pitched pik cry is a distinctive feature for identifying them. 

Downy Woodpecker Color Pattern

The Downy Woodpecker has a color pattern that gives off a black and white checked pattern. The upper back, rear, and wings of this bird are black in color whereas the wings are spotted with white dots. On its back, there is a white strip that goes all the way down and a white bar above and below each of its eye.

The underside of the woodpecker completely contrasts with its upper side featuring a fully white plumage.

Though very similar, the adult male has a distinct feature that the female lacks. It has a red patch on the back of its head.

Downy Woodpecker Size

Downy Woodpeckers are very small versions of the classic woodpecker’s body physique. Their bill is straight and chisel-like. Other features include a blocky head, straight and erect posture, and wide shoulders.

The relative size for both sexes is:

  • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Behavior

  • Downy Woodpeckers are friendly birds that often mix with other flocks of birds.
  • Their flight style is very distinct to many woodpeckers; they rise then dive down.
  • These birds can be quite noisy with their shrill whinnying call and its beaks drumming on trees.

What Downy Woodpecker Eat and Their Food

Their main diet involves certain insects including beetles, bugs, grasshoppers, ants and caterpillars. Apart from these, they feed on pests like bark beetles that are abundantly present on the surface of trees. These woodpeckers focus on insects during spring season and summer season as they are readily available. More than 3/4th of the diet of a typical Downy Woodpecker consists of insects. For maintaining the balance in their diet, they sometimes consume wild berries, suet and grains. The petite build of the Downy Peckers allows them to hunt for the insects that are situated on the upper parts of the trees which the other heavier varieties of the species cannot reach. 

Downy Woodpeckers use their bill to drill into trees in pursuit of insects that mostly make up their diet. Such insects include wasps, moths, insect larvae, and beetles. They also occasionally eat sunflower seeds and berries.

Where Downy Woodpeckers Live and Their Habitat

Downy Woodpeckers are seen in regions that are surrounded by trees. These birds prefer trees with broad leaves and also in forests with willow trees. They are found in suburbs, grounds, riverside and even farmlands where there are plenty of trees in the vicinity. The outskirts of the forest and also parts of thick forests with slight openings are favoured by these woodpeckers. When the breeding period gets over, they are generally found nesting in conifer forests. In contrast to Hairy Woodpeckers that prefer the conditions in coniferous forests, these smaller woodpeckers are content with the environmental conditions of deciduous forests.

The Downy Woodpecker lives in woodlands, parks, and yards.

Range and Migration

Downy Woodpecker is titled as the smallest variety among woodpecker species in North America. Usually found in North America, Canada, these birds reside in these settlements all year round. The sightings of these woodpeckers are listed in the northern parts of Canada including parts of Prairie, northern British Columbia and James Bay. The harsh, cold winters force the Downy Woodpeckers of the northern regions to seek shelter in the eastern, western and down the south of the continent. At such times, they settle in valleys, orchards or some forest regions. These migrations are almost irregular as they keep in mind the issue of availability of food in those places.


Downy Woodpeckers are highly monogamous and mate towards the end of the winter. Both the genders are involved in building their nest for breeding. These woodpeckers are rather protective of their territory and often engages in fights with intruders to protect their site. They create their nests in infected, dead trees and decorate the entrance of the nest using fungus or dead leaves to camouflage the same. They will make several holes on potential trees, and the female makes the final choice. The nests are formed 3 to 9 m above the ground to ensure safety.

Downy Woodpecker Lifecycle

These birds mate in nearly spring and breed in the first breeding season after the year they were born. The female bird lays 4-5 white eggs and then the pair taks turns incubating the eggs.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

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Downy Woodpecker Bird Girl Video

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Downy Woodpeckers

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Downy Woodpeckers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

  • Birding Binoculars

    Birding Binoculars

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  • Kids Binocular 8x21

    Kids Binoculars

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Downy Woodpecker T-shirts

If you love the Downy Woodpecker you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.

Downy Woodpecker Iron On Patches

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The Downy Woodpecker is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

  • Downy Woodpecker iron on patches

    Downy Woodpecker Iron on Patches

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  • Bird Banner with iron on patches

    Bird Banner

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Downy Woodpecker Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Downy Woodpecker. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Downy Woodpecker

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses for Downy Woodpecker

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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