Downy and Hairy, the Woody Look-alikes

Winter is a good time to search for downy and hairy woodpeckers. With luck you might find both species in the same Boulder County Park.

Identifying which bird you are viewing is a tricky challenge. Both birds sport dazzling black and white feathers. The feathers are patterned in spots, stripes and solid black or white. A patch of red feathers on the back of the head marks the males. The feather patterns on the two species closely resemble each other.

To watch for downy and hairy woodpeckers, spend some time exploring places with trees. Woodpeckers need trees like goldfish need water.

Downy woodpeckers like forests with a variety of trees. They visit trees in city parks and trees around houses. Downies sometimes check out bird feeders.

Hairy woodpeckers prefer mixed forests with larger trees. Hairies are not as common around towns.

Downies and hairies search for food in different ways even on the same tree. The smaller downy is a little acrobat, often hanging upside down under a tiny twig or clinging to a slender weed stem in the grass. The heavier hairy searches along tree trunks and large branches. Sometimes hairies forage on the ground.

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