Project Chekov: Downy Woodpecker

Today we have the fourth installment of Project Chekov, but this one comes with a little bit of uncertainty and mystery.  While processing the feeder shots I came across the image below.

At the time I immediately classified this as another Downy Woodpecker since those can be seen quite frequently hanging out there.  They like to give the impression they are hard working drillers for their food but I’ll see them sneak a trip to the feeders every once in awhile for a snack.  At one point they were showing up a lot more than usual and for the longest time it stumped me as to why.  Later, it became apparent that one of my seed bins had gone bad and it was filled with  ants – the woodpeckers were not so much going after the seed as much as they were the ants that must have been overtaking the feeder.  Clearly the one above was there for the seed.  While uploading it to our photo website the yellow on the bridge of the beak caught my eye.  I had not really noticed that before, as opposed to the more noticeable red highlight on the head for the males.  This prompted a dash for the reference books.  Nothing really conclusive there but part of that is due to the reference shots all being from the side and not directly on (bad reference authors, very bad).  The size led me to believe it was the Hairy or the Downy and since there hasn’t been a lot of Hairy’s around here the best guess is the Downy.  I checked the juvi Yellow- Bellied Sapsucker but that has more markings on the breast and less white for sure).  The Black-backed Woodpecker and Three-toed didn’t match either and didn’t line up with the regions very well.  Without any further input I’m forced to consider it the Downy.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, I could be swayed easily at this point.

Here is another shot of a similar bird taken at a different time.  As with the previous image you can see a little bit of the yellow on the bill here as well.  This one is a pretty good match to the Downy characteristics and you can visualize the smaller stature.

So, it is possible the first is not a Downy, but I didn’t want to cheat you out of a post so went with some insurance!

Hit the jump to check that out.

Now that is definitely a female Downy in the act of a more traditional woodpecker feeding.  The Hairy is very similar, but the smaller beak gives it away for me.   From a region perspective, these birds are essentially everywhere in the US.  Something I didn’t know about these birds until recently is the juvi males have their red marking on the top of their head (more of a cap).  As they mature into adults that red marking shifts to the back of the head.  A clear evolutionary answer to the male pattern baldness comb over!

Figured I’d throw in another shot that gives a better view of the color patterns down the back of the Downy.  Again, this specimen is a female and by the looks of the tree, pretty efficient at hammering through the bark to get to those tasty bugs.

Probably should also point out that this shot was prefixed with D7L which means it was done with Linda’s camera.  She doesn’t tend to take pictures of birds so there could be an argument made that I had simply borrowed her camera .. although she has definitely been intruding on my space as of late with her eagle shots – may have to slap that wide on the ol’ camera body and extend my portfolio a bit (hehehe)

Short and quick tonight.  Feel free to comment on any differing of opinions on the IDs.  I’ve been through the reference books a couple of times now and no other options are really jumping out at me.

Oh, and for the record, these are some downright crappy pictures of Downy’s (link here)  – there has definitely been some improving – a long way still to go

5 thoughts on “Project Chekov: Downy Woodpecker”

  1. I think they are Downy’s as well. Ants in your feeder sound pretty icky.

    I’m torn here. Should I express my shock at your comment at the end of the third paragraph from the bottom?

    Well, the Chekov posts have been fun. Sorry to see them end.



  2. Those ants were reallllly icky – I found out when I was near the bottom of the feed in our storage containers and went to fill it one day and the bottom of the bin was MOVING… ’bout gagged and spent the next couple of hours cleaning out everything – never bought food at Farm and Fleet again.

    what’s wrong with the comment at the end of the third paragraph from the bottom!?!?!

    end… sounds delusional .. like trying to deny you live in Chicago


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