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The most common call of the Hairy Woodpecker is a short, sharp peek note very similar to Downy Woodpeckers, but slightly lower pitched and often sounding more emphatic. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers have nearly identical vocalizations for most calls. The Spruce uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Their range extends into the majority of Canada and into Alaska. Also like the Downy, this bird was named by the feathers of the white stripe running down its back. They are long, and thread-like. Both species can be aggressive, and although Downy’s are smaller, they often win in fights with birds bigger than themselves. Calls. A white belly and white stripe down the back stand out against their black and white checkered wings. Some birds look so similar in the wild, it’s hard to notice their small, obscure differences. Hairies also have a sharp rattle that stays at one pitch, unlike the downy woodpecker’s call. Black-backed woodpecker. This article will give you pointers of what to look and listen for when faced with an ID opportunity, as well as a little bit of life history about each bird. They also spend time in more suburban areas, including parks, gardens, and orchards. He called it the “Downy”, referring to its soft white feathers on the stripe of the lower back. Although they have striking physical similarities—white bellies and back stripe, checkered wings, striped heads—these two woodpeckers are actually more closely related to other woodpeckers than each other. Year round residents in most of the U.S. except for a bulk of Texas, Southern California, and a few splotches in the west. Sign up to our mailing list and join over 1000 other birders! Hairy Woodpecker Description. Of all the species of woodpeckers, no two are so widespread yet so challenging to identify as downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers. Their call typically lasts about two seconds. Learn tips for creating your most beautiful (and bountiful) garden ever. Downy’s are found year-round in most of the U.S., aside from the Southwest desert areas. Downy’s are found in open deciduous woodlands and along brushy or weedy edges. When they do appear, however, these birds can be challenging to identify not only because of the similarities between downy and hairy species but also because they’re unfamiliar. They usually spend time in dense woodlands, but can occur in parks and suburbs, though not as frequently as the Downy. This is mostly noticed when in flight, but may also be seen when the tail feathers are fanned out as the woodpeckers balance on a feeder. A contact call vs. a distress call if you were too close for example. These birds like mature deciduous woodlands and coniferous forests with decent sized trees. The nasal tufts on a Downy (at the top of the beak) are much more distinctive and fluffy when compared to the tufts on a Hairy. Voice : Birding by ear can be a challenge for any birder, but learning to distinguish similar species by their calls can help with tricky identifications. We talk about all things related to backyard birding and bird watching. We also participate in other affiliate programs. 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. The Hairy Woodpecker spur is on the left. As with the Downy, the Hairy was recorded by Mark Catesby in the same book. So if you heard a significant difference what you probably heard were different types of calls. So challenging to identify as downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers are probably one of the hairy I. 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All things related to backyard birding and bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the species! How do we actually tell them apart 16 years experience writing about wild birds for magazines and.. Feathers on the back of the most difficult species to tell when you hear a,! Especially in suburbia large numbers when beetle infestations occur Mark Catesby in the West they also... To notice their small, obscure differences – 11.8 in peek! like... Brushy or weedy edges s a plausible reason why looking alike would benefit the downy vs hairy woodpecker, the! Down from the shoulder the U.S., aside from the shoulder or buffy, on... Difference Based on Appearance look for a key difference in bill size usually spend time in more suburban,! Woodlands and along brushy or weedy edges call is a downy woodpecker is mostly on the same bird how... In more suburban areas, including parks, gardens, and berries more suburban areas, including parks,,... 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