Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker facts – color, markings, features

Female downy woodpecker picture

  • White patch on center of back
  • Black and white streaked face (thin black line extending from base of bill, and heavy black line thru eye and extending to back of head)
  • white belly and underparts
  • Male has small red patch on back of head (nape)
  • Female has no red
  • juveniles look similar to adults but have red patch on top of head that disappears as they get older
  • similar color and markings to Hairy woodpecker, but Downy is much smaller


Downy woodpecker size

Downy woodpecker pictures

  • smallest woodpecker of North America
  • only about 6 inches
  • bill is about .75 inches
  • wingspan about 11 inches
  • weight about 1.7 ounces

Downy woodpecker range

  • all of the United States (except for the most arid desert regions of Nevada, Arizona, West Texas, and Southern California)
  • all of Canada

Downy woodpecker population statistics

Picture of male and female downy woodpeckers

  • according to various bird counts conducted through out its’ range, the population of downy woodpeckers is steadily increasing

Will Downy woodpeckers come to a bird feeder?

Read this article about how to attract woodpeckers to learn more!



Picture of the smallest woodpecker of north america

What do downy woodpeckers eat?

Read this article to learn all about downy woodpecker diet

Downy woodpecker habitat

Downy woodpeckers are a fairly adaptive species. They live in forested woodlots without a lot of undergrowth, open woodlands, parks, fence rows with weedy brush close by, tree farms, apple orchards, and in people’s backyards throughout suburban America and Canada. They are probably most commonly found in deciduous woods and along the wooded edges of creeks and streams.

Downy woodpecker nest – nesting, breeding, and mating

Picture of male downy woodpecker eating suetA typical nesting location for a Downy woodpecker would be on the underside of a smallish branch (usually less than eight inches in diameter) of a dead tree, where the bark and core has been softened due to decay. Due to the Downy’s relatively smallish beaks, they need softer wood in order to successfully excavate their nest cavities. Both sexes participate in chipping and digging the nest cavity. The entrance hole to their nest is normally one to one and a half inches in diameter, the depth about ten inches, with the bottom of the cavity a little wider than the top to make room for their eggs and incubation. The bottom of the nest is lined with wood shavings and small chips. Downy’s mate and breed once a year, usually in mid to late spring. They typically lay between 4 and 7 solid white colored eggs, which measure about 1/2 inch by 3/4 inch. Egg incubation is about 12 days and the nesting period normally lasts about 20 days.

Downy woodpecker call and sounds

The most common downy woodpecker call is a 'keek-keek-keek' Both males and females have a ‘whinnying’ call, and a ‘keek keek keek’ call used during courtship and breeding. Both male and female Downy’s also make ‘drumming’ noises (rapid pecking usually on hollow cored branches and trees because the sound carries further) while claiming territory and during breeding season.

Other noted behavioral traits of a downy woodpecker

Probably the most active and agile of all the woodpeckers.  Also, a rapid climber and descender of trees (quicker and faster than other woodpeckers probably due to their small size).  Another distinctive characteristic of the downy woodpecker is that they are frequently seen hanging on the undersides of tree branches and upside down while foraging. They are also one of the more vocal, ‘busy’, and ‘noisy’ woodpeckers, frequently heard drumming and pecking on trees and making their various calls and sounds.

Similar woodpecker species

Downy woodpeckers share ranges and habitats with the following:


Pileated woodpecker