Bird of the Day: Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Female downy woodpecker on tree trunk

Downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker I see on a regular basis, just about the size of a sparrow. When it’s cloudy and gray like today, it can be a challenge to identify them. It fact, I first mistook the one I saw this afternoon for a sparrow or other little brown job, because it was sitting on a bare branch and I couldn’t make out its distinctive black-and-white pattern against the glare of the cloudy sky.

Bird of the day: Hairy woodpecker

We’ve been seeing a lot of woodpeckers now that the leaves have fallen. A few days ago I counted close to a dozen downy woodpeckers on one of the trees near my house, and red-breasted woodpeckers have been coming around to peck at the locust tree outside my kitchen window. I’m not sure why hairy woodpeckers are called “hairy.” I guess it’s because the feathers on their bellies are fine and hair-like, but so are the feathers on the bellies of many other woodpeckers.