Downy woodpecker1. Downy (Picoides pubescens) _ Length 6.75″, wingspan 12″ (1st photo)
2. Hairy (Picoides villosus) _  Length 9.25″, wingspan 15″ (2nd photo)
(also see Northern Flicker profile)

What they eat: Primarily insects, but also berries, nuts, suet

Habitat: Woodland trees, especially dead and dying ones

Where they nest: They excavate cavities in dead and dying trees

Hairy woodpeckerMy observations: I’ve lumped these two woodpeckers together because they have the same habits and lifestyles; it’s just the size that is the difference. If both of these birds appear in your garden and you can never remember which is which, here’s what I use to remember: the Downy is Diminutive (or small) and the Hairy is Humungous (as in large). Works every time! (whatever it takes, right?)

As you can see by the photos, both birds are black and white, and both adult males have a splash of red on the back of their head. So it’s really the size that will help you identify them. I enjoy watching both of these types of woodpeckers skillfully climbing up and around our aspen and crabapple trees, tapping here and there and cocking their heads to listen for insects underneath the bark. They particularly enjoy coming in for some suet during the colder months of the year. We see them in our garden year-round.

This video shows a Hairy Woodpecker hunting for insects under the bark of a dead aspen tree in our woodland (we left it in place specifically to attract, and provide food for, woodpeckers):

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