Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Family: Woodpeckers, Picidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 13% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 6" (15 cm). A sparrow-sized, black and white woodpecker. Small red patch on nape in males. Similar to Hairy Woodpecker, but smaller and with short, stubby bill.
Habitat Woodlands, parks, and gardens.
Nesting 4 or 5 white eggs in a hole in a tree.
Voice A quiet pik. Also a descending rattle.
Range Resident from Alaska across Canada, south throughout United States except Southwest.
Discussion The Downy is a familiar bird in its range, especially in winter, when many move into the suburbs and feed on suet at bird feeders. It is often seen in the mixed flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, creepers, and kinglets that gather in the woods during migration and winter. As with other woodpeckers, the male is larger than the female and chisels deep into wood with its longer, stronger bill, whereas the female pries under the bark with her shorter bill. Thus a pair is able to share the food resources without competing with one another.