Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Downy Woodpecker

I didn't recognize him immediately. After all, this was a very unusual posture for a woodpecker. We see woodpeckers in our woods every day, but they are almost always climbing up or down, or clinging to the side of the tree. This Downy Woodpecker was sitting on a limb, almost crouching, and very still. Perhaps a hawk had been seen. For whatever reason, he sat very still for a while. Then he looked at me and flew to the suet feeder.

Seeing him at the feeder made me feel rather foolish. How could I not have instantly recognized him? I see him all the time. Perhaps it was the presence of our Rose-breasted Grosbeaks with their black and white wings. And the posture in the tree certainly contributed to my temporary confusion.

We have several different woodpeckers as regular visitors. Because the Downys are the smallest, we almost always call them "Little Downy Woodpeckers" as if "little" were part of the name. We were fortunate this summer to have at least two mating pairs of Downys and were delighted to see them bring their fledglings to our suet. The little Downys often had to wait in the trees for the Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Hairy Woodpeckers to eat their fill. The Red-bellied male consistently chased the Downys whenever he saw them. He will still occasionally chase the Downys, even though nesting is over for the season. Perhaps it just becomes a habit.

The little Downys are so accustomed to our presence, they will come to the suet even when we are sitting on the deck. They announce themselves with their "teek...teek...teet" as if they are annoyed that we are there. Then they seem to remember that we are non-threatening and fly to the feeder. They are fun to watch and we always welcome them.


Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I can't even begin to identify birds, you're doing a lot better than me!

Dog_geek said...

We get a lot of different woodpeckers at our suet feeders in the winter, and I always have a mental block when it comes to distinguishing the downy versus the hairy woodpeckers. I can never remember which one is the smallest - maybe I need to start calling them little Downy woodpeckers!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I've sen that same posture when there are hawks about. They do look out of place hunkered down on a branch like that.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I wouldn't know one from the other, so you are doing better than I.

The Birdlady said...

They can make you wonder sometimes.

Kathi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathi said...


This is Bill Thompson's mnemonic device for remembering which woodpecker is which:

"Downy is dinky;
Hairy is huge."

I look at their bills (beaks). Downies have a small bill, about as long as their heads are, while a Hairy's bill is thick, heavy, and longer than the length of their heads.

Love your DOWO, Carolyn!

Jayne said...

They are such sweet little birds. I like watching them too, and that posture would have been initially perplexing to me too Carolyn. :c)

Ruth said...

It looks like a perching songbird. We have many Downy Woodpeckers in the city and they visit our feeder frequently. They enjoyed our wood siding too!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Carolyn: What a neat shot of the Downy. I shot two in the buckeye tree on the weekend but haven't seen them on the computer yet to try to identify.

NCmountainwoman said...

Wayfaring - I usually don't have much trouble with the woodpeckers.

Dog geek - It is really difficult to tell them apart unless they are on something to give you size perspective. Or you can clearly see their bills.

Lynne - While I didn't see a hawk, we do have a Sharpie that comes around now and then.

Twisted - I did a post a while back differentiating downy from hairy. Click on the label and you should be able to find the post.

Helen - Yes, and that's part of the fun.

Kathi - Great way to remember.

Jayne - I do love the Downys as well. I've never seen them aggressive.

Ruth - That's what I thought as well. Certainly not typical of a woodpecker.

Fishing guy - Thanks. I will look forward to seeing your Downys.