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Downy Woodpecker bird picture


Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) - 6.75 inches

This is the smallest and commonest Woodpecker we have, and it is resident througloout that range of country which extends from Florida to Labrador. Its marking is a pronounced symphony in black and white accented by a red band; a broad stripe of white runs down the centre of the back; wings black numerously spotted with white: a scarlet band on the nape of the neck; middle tail feathers black, but the outer ones white barred with black; two broadish white stripes, one above, the other below the eye extending backward.

The Hairy Woodpecker is similarly marked, but the outer tail feathers are white without bars, and it is nearly half as long again from bill to tail. The nest is usually in the hole of a, dead limb; the egg is pure white. The female is marked like the male, but the red band is absent.

Both birds are indefatigable workers in the building of the nest, but the female apparently loses a great deal of time in critically examining the premises. She ex­plores every nook and cranny as soon as the male bird has chipped away a satisfactory round opening, and then falls to with him at the grand act of excavation.

If there is already a hollow in the tree of small size it is enlarged to the required dimensions in a remarkably short space of time, but still the housewife seems to entertain some doubt about matters in general, and wastes more time "poking around"! Wilson seems to approve of this questionable vigilance and remarks as follows: " Before she begins to lay, the female passes in and out, examines every part, both of the exterior and interior, with great attention, as every prudent tenant of a new house ought to do, and at length takes complete possession."

There is the musicianly part of his character; he is a member of the drum corps who sounds a reveille for the mere love of it, or, to speak - more exactly, " all for the love of the lady." We should make no mistake about this, he is signalling for his mate, and if we stand by long enough it is possible we may see her.

This summer I listened to a rousing, rattling tattoo on a telephone pole near my cottage that could have been heard fully a quarter of a mile away, and after its second repetition, I saw two Downies where a moment before there was but one; so she had arrived! What few notes the Downy has may be compared to the ring of a marble quarrier's chisel-to borrow an apt simile by Mr. Chapman. He utters a metallic chink, chink, while he is at work, or a quick succession of these syllables as he flies to another tree.

The notes of the Hairy Woodpecker are about the same, but louder. Both birds in the rapid repetition of their notes resemble the noisy Flicker. The Downy differs from Woodpeckers in general; he is a sociable chap, for I notice he is always around when a flock of Chickadees and a Nuthatch or two are inspecting the old apple­trees on the grounds. I generally look for the visits of this self-appointed committee of investigation in early autumn; probably they are continued at irregular intervals throughout the winter.