Sunday, June 15, 2008

Downy and Hairy

We have four pairs of woodpeckers regularly coming to our suet. The pace is pretty fast right now as their young are almost ready to fledge and all the parents are gathering food for them. In fact, the Downy Woodpeckers already have two fledglings that we have seen.

Shortly after we moved into our house, my husband came in and said we had the biggest Downy he had ever seen. Of course, what he had seen was a Hairy Woodpecker. The two are remarkably similar.

For comparison, here are the two at the same feeder: (Click to enlarge)
This is the Downy. He is less than half the length of the feeder. Note that his bill is relatively short, about half the length of his head. A goldfinch seems to be interested in watching him.

Compare him to the Hairy:
The Hairy Woodpecker is much larger than the Downy. His length covers more than two-thirds of the feeder. Note the length of his bill. It is almost as long as his head.
Both the Downy and the Hairy do drumming on dead trees to attract mates and establish territory. Our other woodpeckers, the Pileated and (to a lesser extent) the Red-Bellied also drum. The resonance of the drumming is very different from the sound of pecking for insects or excavating a nest cavity. It is a wonderful and welcome sound. No additonal percussion is required.


MicheleRF said...

Yes, I've always thought that the Hairy WPs look like Downy's on steroids! Your shots & description demonstrate nicely the difference in size.

Kerri Farley said...

Wow! Great shots! I love to hear them "drumming" also!

Ruth said...

I see Hairy Woodpeckers frequently on the trails, but I have never had one come to my suet feeder. We get Downy Woodpeckers frequently. But you are in the woods, not the city suburbs. Good comparison shots.

Mary said...

I had a few Downys but never a Hairy. A few Red-Bellied also. I sure miss them... Red-Bellieds always announced their arrival from a nearby tree before landing on the suet cake feeder.

Jayne said...

What a great contrast for comparison! I've never seen a Hairy, but plenty of Downys come to visit.

NCmountainwoman said...

Michele - Good description.

Kerri - I've learned to differentiate the various drumming and I just love listening.

Ruth - When we lived in the suburbs, we also saw Downys but not Hairys.

Mary - Our Red-bellieds also signal their arrival. And they really fuss at us if we are on the deck near the suet.

Jayne - I need to get some photo editing program to really show the difference without enlarging the pictures.