Twin Woodpeckers

By Dave Hanks

HAIRY and DOWNY WOODPECKERS are look-alikes. The major difference is their size. The Downy is 6 1/4th inches and looks very much like a miniature Hairy, who is 9 1/4th inches long. Both have white breasts, black backs with a white stripe down the center, black wings speckled with white, a white and black striped face, and a red spot on the back of male heads. They remind me of “Big brother and Little brother”. A role I was much aware of in my life as the youngest.

Both the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are found all over North America. Our south hills are replete with Hairy Woodpeckers. But, both species can be found at City of Rocks and Lake Cleveland. The Downy is more apt to be in your yard. In fact it likes our apple trees (that have some age on them) and we can hear a soft pecking away in our yard. Their drilling is much louder when attacking a telephone pole.

The Downy’s call is softer and higher pitched than the Hairy’s, which includes a loud, sharp peek and a slurred whinny. Rocky Mountain birds tend to be slightly duller, with less spotting on their wings.

All woodpeckers have four toes, bristle-like feathers over their nostrils (to keep wood chips out), and very long tongues for probing in hard to reach places and for lapping up sap. Their eggs are white, and both parents are involved in caring for the young.

Sitting by a nest cavity is futile. The birds know you are there and will wait you out. These shots came from patiently waiting in a blind. The Hairy photo was shot at Cabin Lake, Oregon: and the Downy in Raccoon National Park, Indiana.

(Hairy Woodpecker – top – Downy Woodpecker – bottom)