South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

Length: 6.5 - 7 inches Wingspan: 11 - 12 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Small size, short stubby bill, black spots on white outer feathers of tail, relatively quiet call.  Males have a red patch on the back of their heads.

Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens The Downy is the smallest Woodpecker in North America.  It's found in residential areas and parks throughout the state, and very readily will forage at home feeders.  During the winter, they are often found with mixed flocks including other species such as chickadees and nuthatches.  Note the very similar markings of the Hairy Woodpecker, which has a larger size and longer bill.  A male is pictured to the right.  Females are similar, but don't have the red patch on the back of the head (see photos at bottom of the page).

Habitat: Woodlands, River groves, orchards, residential trees.

Diet: Mostly insects. Also eats seeds and berries, as well as nuts and suet at feeders. 

Behavior: Will forage at nearly any level of vegetation.  Due to it's small size, it can climb through smaller branches and twigs when looking for food than can many other woodpeckers. 

Nesting: May through July. The nest of a Downy Woodpecker is a cavity in a tree. The female lays between 3 and 6 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help feed and tend to the young.  The young leave the nest after about 3 weeks.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Downy Woodpecker Cal

Migration: Non-migratory

Similar Species: Hairy WoodpeckerSee Comparison Chart.

Conservation Status: Common and widespread, with no discernible trend in populations.  The IUCN lists the Downy Woodpecker as a species of "Least Concern".

Bird Feeders: Sunflower seeds, nuts, peanut butter, suet.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Downy Woodpecker

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Downy Woodpecker"

3) Downy Woodpecker

Photo Information: November 7th, 2007 - Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Downy Woodpecker photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state.