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Which Woodpecker was Wandering the Woods?

March 6, 2018

Categories: Nature Notes

By Wolf Ridge Naturalist

If you go on a walk through the woods in the spring, you might hear a distinct drumming sound. Looking around, you can see a woodpecker. But alas, which one???? Here at Wolf Ridge, the most common woodpeckers are the downy, hairy and pileated.

The downy woodpecker is the smallest of the three at 6-7” while the hairy woodpecker is a little larger at 9”. But that can be hard to judge from a distance. So, some easier distinctions are the barred tail feathers on the downy, or the beak length. The beak is larger than half the head width on a hairy, and smaller than half the head width on a downy. If you want to figure out the sex, just remember a red patch on the head is male.

However, for pileated woodpeckers, both male and females have red on their heads. But, the males have extra red feather around their beak that kind of looks like a mustache. Pileated woodpeckers are also the largest of the three, reaching up to 18” long.

Late winter to early summer is a great time to get outside, listen for their distinct drumming since drumming functions to identify territory and track mates. Our challenge for you is to practice your woodpecker identification and try to figure out the differences in their drumming.

Source: Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior

By Rachael Sarette, Jenna Arvidson, and Alex Romano