Nature Journal
with Photos

Downy Woodpecker Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
General Information
- Very small black and white woodpecker
- Very short bill
- Mostly black head set off by broad white supercilium
   and lower border to auriculars
- Black nape
- White back
- Black wings with white spotting on coverts and flight
- White underparts
- Black rump
- Black tail with white outer tail feathers barred with

Adult male
- Red spot at rear of head

Similar species
Other small black and white woodpeckers such as Ladder-backed, Strickland's, Red-cockaded and Nuttall's have longer bills, barred backs, and patterning on the chests. Black-backed woodpecker is easily distinguished by the darker face, black back, and barred flanks.

Three-toed Woodpecker is best distinguished by the darker face and barred flanks, since some races can have white backs. Juvenile Hairy Woodpeckers on the Queen Charlotte Islands have barred outer tail feathers and such birds should be carefully separated from Downy Woodpeckers by their larger size and larger bills. Hairy Woodpecker is most similar, but is larger, with a longer bill, entirely white outer tail feathers, and a different call.
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