I’ve always had a difficulty with estimating bird sizes. It’s a real handicap when identifying some birds especially when you are in the forest and there’s a black and white woodpecker with red on the back of its head. Is it a big Hairy Woodpecker (9.25″) or it’s smaller relative the Downy Woodpecker (6.75). (Featured image of both Downy and Hairy woodpeckers from Project Feederwatch (http://feederwatch.org/learn/tricky-bird-ids/downy-woodpecker-and-hairy-woodpecker/))
Image 01 by Rolf Nussbaumer from the Audubon site: http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/hairy-woodpecker
My first clue was that Downy’s are more likely to be found in the suburbs. Yeah, I know, Pocatello isn’t a big city, after all we still have the occasional moose or mountain lion wander in to town. Still, the park wasn’t exactly a forest.
Next clue, the woodpecker in question landed on a slender willow sapling.
“The larger of two look alikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees.” – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hairy_Woodpecker/id/
Image 02 unknown photographer from Study of North Virginia Ecology http://www2.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/downy_woodpecker.htm
“An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and suet feeders.” — https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Downy_Woodpecker/id
Final clue, a magpie landed nearby. Hooray! Size validated. It’s definitely a Downy Woodpecker.
I may not have seen many birds during my lunchtime but I’m happy anytime I can get practice on the Downy vs Hairy woodpecker problem.
In creating this blogpost I found a new clue to this problem on the Sibley site. “… [the] Downy Woodpecker has a larger white patch on the sides of the neck.” — http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/02/a-new-clue-for-identifying-downy-and-hairy-woodpeckers/