2022—Downy or Hairy?

Identifying birds can be a challenge. They are often quite similar in appearance but because they don’t always sit still while you decipher the identifiers, zeroing in on a particular detail to differentiate one from another can be frustrating and is often very difficult because they can disappear in an instant. Case in point? Is this a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker? We saw both at Sax-Zim Bog and unless they were right next to each other with their obvious size differences, I had trouble discerning which was which. I had time with this bird as it pecked into this well-drilled tree trunk for quite a while while I photographed it. But, because it was alone, I couldn’t compare the difference in body size——the Hairy is more than two inches larger than the Downy. The other main difference is the size of their beaks, with the Downy’s beak shorter and stubbier than the Hairy’s sturdier, longer bill. I’m pretty sure this is a male Downy Woodpecker, the smaller of the two similar woodpeckers. Telling whether this woodpecker is a male or female is the easy part. The red patch on his head identifies him clearly as a male.

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