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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tricky Woodpecker Identification

The other day, I noticed a woodpecker at my suet feeder and pointed it out to my husband.  He asked me what type of woodpecker it was and I started to explain that it was a Downy Woodpecker, when in the woods behind us a very similar woodpecker landed on a tree.  He asked if that was a Downy as well, and I realized that there is very little difference between the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers from afar at least visually.   I thought it would be a good topic to bring up today.  

The thing that immediately had me picking Downy as the woodpecker at the suet feeder before really looking at it closely was the fact that they are the most social of the woodpeckers.  If there is going to be one hanging out at a feeder, especially in suburbia, chances are high it is a Downy.  


  • After closer examination, you can see that a Downy Woodpecker's beak is proportional in relation to his head while a Hairy Woodpecker has a very large beak.  
  • The Downy Woodpecker is much smaller than the Hairy (about 3 inches smaller), but it is hard to do a size comparison if there is only one bird.  
  • If you have binoculars or are close enough to see, both birds will have white outer tail feathers, but the
  • Downy also has black spots on those white outer feathers, whereas the Hairy is lacking those spots.  
  • The most discernible difference between the two woodpeckers is their voice.  
From the tips that I have given you? Can you identify each one from the picture?? 

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