Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker

[order] PICIFORMES | [family] Picidae | [latin] Picoides pubescens | [UK] Downy Woodpecker | [FR] Picmineur | [DE] Dunenspecht | [ES] Pico Pubescente | [NL] Donsspecht


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Picoides pubescens NA widespread
Picoides pubescens fumidus sw Canada and w Washington (USA)
Picoides pubescens gairdnerii w Oregon to nw California (USA)
Picoides pubescens glacialis se Alaska (USA)
Picoides pubescens leucurus Rocky Mts. (se Alaska to sw USA)
Picoides pubescens medianus c Alaska to e Canada and c and e USA
Picoides pubescens pubescens se USA
Picoides pubescens turati c Washington to c California (USA)

Physical charateristics

Note the i white back and i small bill. This industrious bird is like a small edition of the Hairy Woodpecker, which has a i large
bill. Birds of the humid Pacific Northwest have smoky gray-brown underparts. The amount of white spotting in the wings varies regionally, as it does in the Hairy Woodpecker.

Listen to the sound of Downy Woodpecker

[audio: Woodpecker.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America : widespread


Forests, woodlots, willows, river groves, orchards, shade tree Found in wide variety of habitats, from wilderness areas to second-growth woods to suburban yards, but generally favors deciduous trees.
In far north and in mountains (areas dominated by conifers), restricted to groves of deciduous trees such as aspens, willows.


Male and female have separate feeding areas in fall and early winter, with pairs forming by late winter. Male and female take turns drumming loudly on dead limbs on their separate territories, male gradually approaches. Displays (used mostly in aggression
, also in courtship) involve crest raising, head swinging, tail spreading, and fluttering display flight.
b Nest: Site is cavity (excavated by both sexes) in dead limb or dead tree, usually 12-30′ above ground, sometimes 5-
60′. Cavity entrance is often surrounded by fungus or lichen, helping to camouflage site. No nest material other than wood chips.
b Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both sexes, about 12 days.
b Young: Both parents bring billfuls of insects to feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 20-25 days after hatching, may follow parents around for a few weeks thereafter. 1 brood per year, possibly 2 in south.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects. Feeds on insects, especially beetles and ants, also gall wasps, caterpillars, others. Also eats seeds and berries. Will eat suet at bird feeders.
b Behavior: Can forage not only on trunks and major limbs of trees but also on minor branches and twigs (often climbing about acrobatically and hanging upside down), as well as on shrubs and weed stalks. Male
and female forage differently at times, but this varies with place and season. On trees, does more tapping and excavating in winter, more gleaning from surface in summer.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Downy Woodpecker status Least Concern


Alaska, Canada to southern United States. b Migration:
Permanent resident in many areas, but northernmost populations may move some distance south in winter. Some birds from the Rockies and other western mountains may move down to valleys in winter, and may move short distance south as well.

Distribution map

Downy Woodpecker distribution range map

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