Field identification tips: The Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a familiar sight in many North American suburban yards north of Mexico. The bold white blaze on the back helps identify this species, a field mark shared with the Hairy Woodpecker, Dryobates villosus. Distinguishing D. pubescens from D. villosus can be tricky because their apperance is very similar. D. pubescens is a smaller bird, barely larger than a chickadee or nuthatch. This species also has a proportionally smaller bill, not quite as long as the bird's head, and dark spots can often be seen on the white outer tail feathers while D. villosus is larger, about the size of the American Robin, has a bill nearly as long as its head, and un-spotted white outer tail feathers. Males of both D. pubescens and D. villosus have a red spot on the nape. In the western part of D. pubescens' range the breast plumage is cinnamon-colored vs. white in eastern birds.
Typical range: This bird is a year-round resident over much of North America, north of Mexico.
Habitat: D. pubescens is found primarily in deciduous open woodlands, including orchards, parks, and suburban yards. This bird may also take advantage of wooden fence posts to breed, feeding in nearby tall weeds.