Boulder Birdwatchers Flock to Witness Uncommon Downy Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is a small, yet charming woodpecker species commonly found in Colorado and throughout North America. These birds are known for their distinctive black and white plumage, making them easily recognizable. Here are some interesting facts about Downy Woodpeckers in Colorado:
- Habitat: Downy Woodpeckers are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats within Colorado, including forests, woodlands, parks, and even suburban areas. They are particularly common in areas with deciduous trees.
- Size: These woodpeckers are among the smallest in North America, with an average length of about 6-7 inches (15-18 centimeters). Their diminutive size is often a key identifying feature.
- Feeding Habits: Downy Woodpeckers have a diverse diet, consisting of insects, larvae, and spiders. In the winter, they also feed on seeds and suet from bird feeders. Their drumming on trees is not just a hunting behavior but also a way of communicating with other Downy Woodpeckers.
- Distinctive Drumming: Like other woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers drum on trees with their beaks, but their drumming is quieter and slower than larger woodpecker species. This sound is used for territory establishment and courtship.
- Male and Female Differences: One interesting feature of Downy Woodpeckers is that males have a small red patch on the back of their heads, while females do not. This makes it relatively easy to distinguish between the sexes.
- Year-round Residents: In Colorado, Downy Woodpeckers are non-migratory, meaning they can be spotted in the state throughout the year. Their ability to adapt to different seasons allows them to endure Colorado’s varying climate.
- Nesting: Downy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, often using abandoned woodpecker holes or excavating their own in softwood trees. They line their nests with wood chips.
- Voice: Their call is a distinctive “pik” or “tut” sound, and they can often be heard making these calls as they forage for food or communicate with other Downy Woodpeckers.
- Conservation: Downy Woodpeckers are not considered threatened or endangered. They are relatively common and provide valuable ecological services by helping control insect populations.
In summary, Downy Woodpeckers are fascinating birds found in Colorado that add to the state’s rich avian diversity. Their adaptability, distinctive appearance, and behavior make them an intriguing and enjoyable species to observe for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
photo credit: Lenny Lens Frieling