Downy vs. Hairy Woodpecker

Identification Keys and Tips

South Dakota Birds and Birding

Downy Woodpecker   Hairy Woodpecker
Picoides pubescens   Picoides villosus

Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens

 

Hairy Woodpecker - Picoides villosus

Plumage patterns on the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are strikingly similar, with very little to differentiate the two species.  Upon seeing an individual bird, identification can at first be difficult.  Size is an obvious means to discriminate the two species, but this sometimes isn't apparent with a lone bird.  The obvious key to differentiate between the two species is length and appearance of the bill, in addition to voice differeences.
Length: 6.75 inches   Length: 9.25 inches
Wingspan: 12 inches Wingspan: 15 inches
Bill: Short stubby bill, much shorter than head length.  Bill: Longer and sturdier bill, nearly as long as head length
Tail Feathers: White outer tail feathers with black spots. Tail Feathers: White outer tail feathers, lacking spots
Call: Short mellow pik Call: Higher-pitched, bold peek
Behavior: Generally tamer than Hairy Woodpecker, often allowing close approach Behavior: Generally shy, difficult to approach
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state, typically much more common than Hairy, and more likely to be found in residential areas. South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident throughout the state, generally less likely to be found in residential areas.

 

Downy Woodpecker

 

Hairy Woodpecker

Additional Photos Additional Photos
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens   Hairy Woodpecker -  Picoides villosus Hairy Woodpecker -  Picoides villosus Hairy Woodpecker -  Picoides villosus
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens        
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens        

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