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Downy Woodpecker: Cole’s Bird of the Month for September

In Above video, hear the drumming of a female Downy Woodpecker.

If you have backyard feeders, chances are you get the pleasure of watching Downy Woodpeckers on a consistent basis. These relatively small woodpeckers love to frequent backyard feeders, and they are amazingly friendly with people. Several youtube.com videos show Downys feeding from people’s hands.

The Downy Woodpecker dons what looks like a black and white checked coat. They’ve enjoyed this classic black and white look long before humans caught on. The wings are black with white spots, and the belly is mostly white. Downys have black and white tail feathers, and watch for a white bar above the eye. The males are also easily distinguished with a spot of red on the back of the head.

These striking birds also have a short bill which helps to set them apart from other woodpeckers. While it’s hard to tell a Hairy Woodpecker from a Downy Woodpecker, you can usually differentiate by the smaller size of the Downy and the smaller bill. In fact, the Downy is the smallest woodpecker in North America. Downy Woodpeckers mix well with others. They can often be seen mixed into a flock of  chickadees, nuthatches, creepers, and kinglets.

You can find Downy Woodpeckers in just about every habitat. They love forests as well as residential areas and city parks. Listen for their drumming and for the characteristic high-pitched pik note and the descending whinny call.

The best part about the Downy Woodpecker is that Americans can enjoy them year round. Downys can be found from Alaska to Florida and almost everywhere in between. The desert southwest is the only part of the United States where Downys are not present. They can also be found in most of Canada. Only the far northern regions of Canada are excluded.

The males and females work well as a team, with the male chiseling deep into wood with his longer and stronger bill. The female is smaller than the male, and her beak is as well. The female pries under the bark with her shorter bill. The pair is able to share the food resources without competing with one another.

If you want to attract the Downy to your feeders, be sure to use suet. They love suet, but they will also eat peanut butter, peanuts, millet, and Black Oil Sunflower Seeds.

See just how friendly Downys are in this video by Kelly Dodge. She’s an artist who paints birds. The video shows her hand feeding one.

Cole’s Wild Bird Products is a family-owned company that distributes wild bird feed and suet products. The company is known for offering the highest quality products on the market. Cole’s also specializes in chile infused seed products designed to make your feeder a bird’s only “hot” spot. Cole’s started in the garage of mom and pop entrepreneurs Richard and Nancy Cole back in the early 1980’s. Today it distributes to retailers nationwide. Cole’s is located in the metro Atlanta area. For more information, visit www.coleswildbird.com