With practice and patience, you will soon be able to clearly identify your downy and hairy woodpeckers. These birds are excellent at pest control with their mostly insectivorous diets. Black-backed woodpecker. In fact, Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are probably one of the most common cases of this. Other woodpeckers, sapsuckers and flickers. When they do appear, however, these birds can be challenging to identify not only because of the similarities between downy and hairy species but also because they’re unfamiliar. Sorry I can't put up the sounds yet. Telling the Difference Based on Appearance Look for a key difference in bill size. In the West they are restricted to riparian habitats. American three-toed woodpecker. The active little Downy Woodpecker is a familiar sight at backyard feeders and in parks and woodlots, where it joins flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely outsizing them. Call: Short mellow pik: Call: Higher-pitched, bold peek: Behavior: Generally tamer than Hairy Woodpecker, often allowing close approach: Behavior: Generally shy, difficult to approach: South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state, typically much more common than Hairy, and more likely to be found in residential areas. On females where there is no red patch, the white stripes will not meet on a Hairy woodpecker but will go all the way across (no gap) on a Downy. This is the easiest … The hairy woodpecker has a more attention-grabbing call: a sharp, arresting peek!, like the sound of a squeaky dog toy. Hairy Woodpecker The Spruce uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. The most common call of the Hairy Woodpecker is a short, sharp peek note very similar to Downy Woodpeckers, but slightly lower pitched and often sounding more emphatic. The hairy woodpecker has a more attention-grabbing call: a sharp, arresting peek!, like the sound of a squeaky dog toy. Ladder-backed woodpecker. You’ve probably heard a downy woodpecker’s call: a short, friendly pik and a high-pitched, descending whinny. A red bellied woodpecker can be heard also. Hairy Woodpeckers, however, make a similar short sharp note, described as more of a peek sound. This is sometimes referred to as a “comma” marking or a “backpack strap”. In fact, Downy and Hairy woodpeckers are probably one of the most common cases of this. Don’t get discouraged, though, as these are some of the most difficult species to tell apart, even by experts! Hairy’s are louder, more shrill and keep the same pitch. This little woodpecker was first recorded in Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands which was published in 1729-1732. They are also found year-round in most of Canada and into Alaska. This is mostly noticed when in flight, but may also be seen when the tail feathers are fanned out as the woodpeckers balance on a feeder. These checkered black and white birds have a white stripe down their backs and boldly stripes faces. Also, the male Hairy’s red patch is often split in two, while the Downy’s is not. Length: 7.1 – 10.2 in  Weight: 1.4 – 3.4 oz  Wingspan: 13.0 – 16.1 in. This is one of the most noticeable differences. Hairy Woodpecker They are timid, solitary, and likely to fly away when disturbed. Golden-fronted woodpecker. An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and suet feeders. They feed on corn earworms, tent caterpillars, bark beetles, and apple borers. On average, a Hairy is roughly 3 inches larger than a Downy. Hairy woodpecker calling is very high pitched. A contact call vs. a distress call if you were too close for example. Some birds look so similar in the wild, it’s hard to notice their small, obscure differences. Annotations notify when the other bird sounds. But the downy's call drops down (for downy) in pitch. It’s a plausible reason why looking alike would benefit the Downy. Hairy woodpecker. I’m comparing just Downy … Identifying Downy and Hairy … They like to visit bird feeders to much on suet and sunflower seeds, too. Hairy’s squeeze in 25 drums per second, which doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but is very noticeable. If size is difficult to judge, the Hairy's bill is larger and more robust. The outer white tail feathers have black barring/spotting on Downy woodpeckers, while Hairy’s are pure white with no markings. They will flock in large numbers when beetle infestations occur. If you click a link on our site then make a purchase we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As with the Downy, the Hairy was recorded by Mark Catesby in the same book. Hairy Woodpeckers also make a rattle or whinny. Hairy Woodpecker They have larger, more oval-shaped cavities. They usually spend time in dense woodlands, but can occur in parks and suburbs, though not as frequently as the Downy. That’s why we’re going to compare the downy and hairy woodpeckers, and … While there are some subtle differences that can help birders determine which bird is which, the best way to be certain of the identification is through extensive practice and careful scrutiny of these very similar birds. Learn more about us here. They also spend time in more suburban areas, including parks, gardens, and orchards. They will also make meals of caterpillars, bees, wasps, spiders, and millipedes, though not as frequently as it’s favorites mentioned before. Instead of song, most woodpeckers use a mechanical drumming sound as their audio advertising display. Acorn woodpecker. Its small size makes it versatile, and it may forage on weed stalks as well as in large trees. Voice. This article will give you pointers of what to look and listen for when faced with an ID opportunity, as well as a little bit of life history about each bird. An example of two species that fall into this category are the downy vs hairy woodpecker. This mirror image of the two is likely the product of convergent evolution which causes unrelated species to look alike. To round out their meals they’ll also eat grains, acorns, and berries. Voice : Birding by ear can be a challenge for any birder, but learning to distinguish similar species by their calls can help with tricky identifications. Their calls distinguish them also. Learn tips for creating your most beautiful (and bountiful) garden ever. They also love insects, particularly wood-boring beetles, bark … A few years ago I was alerted to a subtle difference in the head patterns of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers when I read a short note by Mark Szantyr with a nod to Julian Hough in the journal The Connecticut Warbler.He pointed out that Downy Woodpecker has a … Lewis's woodpecker. Their call typically lasts about two seconds. Another features of note is if you look at the tail feathers on the downy in the bottom picture. Hairy’s love larvae of wood-boring and bark beetles, ants, and moth pupae in their cocoons. Similarly for males with the red patch, male Hairy’s often have a black dividing stripe in the center of the red patch while Downy’s is solid red. Hairies also have a sharp rattle that stays at one pitch, unlike the downy woodpecker’s call. This article contains affiliate links. Arizona woodpecker. Downy woodpecker (drumming) call, drumming. Lastly, it’s important to note that the Downy Woodpecker is much more abundant than its Hairy counterpart, especially in suburbia. Hairies also have a sharp rattle that stays at one pitch, unlike the downy woodpecker’s call. At the same time, bear in mind that with such similar birds there can always be some overlap and uncertainty, making it important to compare several features. Downy’s voices are higher and softer and dip down in tone at the end. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. They aren’t even in the same Genus. Downy Woodpecker They excavate smaller, round cavities. Just like the Downy Woodpecker, the males have the red patch on the back of their heads, while the females do not. That’s why we’re going to compare the downy and hairy woodpeckers, and discuss the key characteristics that make them different. A Hairy’s bill is about the same length as its head, whereas a Downy’s is not even half the length of its head. The call is softer and higher-pitched and not as wild sounding than Hairy's; has a flat pick!, not as sharp as the Hairy's peek!. In the east this is the most familiar member of the family, readily entering towns and city parks, coming to backyard bird feeders. Medium-sized woodpecker with a long bill that is usually more than ½ depth of head; its bill is exaggerated compared with the Downy's little bill. I was particularly interested to check for geographic variation in drumming sounds of these two species. She has over 16 years experience writing about wild birds for magazines and websites. The Hairy Woodpecker, is the oversized version of the Downy Woodpecker, measuring about 7-10”. Commentdocument.getElementById("comment").setAttribute( "id", "a8677571b39cdf2adaf236319cf18ac2" );document.getElementById("f53853b439").setAttribute( "id", "comment" ); Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. So if you heard a significant difference what you probably heard were different types of calls. The nasal tufts on a Downy (at the top of the beak) are much more distinctive and fluffy when compared to the tufts on a Hairy. Their bellies are all white (or buffy, depending on the region.) A white belly and white stripe down the back stand out against their black and white checkered wings. The Downy Woodpecker typically does not show much of a spur. Both species can be aggressive, and although Downy’s are smaller, they often win in fights with birds bigger than themselves. Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences. Nest Cavities. The Downy Woodpecker's pik call is a rapid string of high-pitched notes that descends in pitch toward the end. You can just make out the dark spots on the side of the downy woodpecker's tail in the photo above. Although they have striking physical similarities—white bellies and back stripe, checkered wings, striped heads—these two woodpeckers are actually more closely related to other woodpeckers than each other. Downy’s produce 17 drums per second, each lasting roughly 0.8-1.5 seconds. This call is also similar to the Downy Woodpecker … Now that we’ve talked about all the things that make them different, you’ll be better equipped to identify them in the field! Gilded flicker. They are long, and thread-like. Of all the species of woodpeckers, no two are so widespread yet so challenging to identify as downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers. This explains their prevalence in burned forests as the beetles become numerous here. If you click a link then make a purchase, we may get a small get commission at no cost to you. Whether you call it a spur, a comma, or a plumage peninsula, the Hairy Woodpecker usually shows this strong field mark. 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