Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker

In North America, the Dryobates pubescens or commonly called downy woodpecker is a species of woodpecker that is the smallest of its kind. The tiny woodpecker is common and widespread across much of North America, and it is the smallest of the woodpeckers. The Downy woodpecker’s black-and-white plumage is almost identical to that of the smaller Hairy Woodpecker. They belong to the family of Picidae. The call is a soft “pik!” followed by a descending rattle that is weaker than that of the Hairy Woodpecker.

Quick Overview: Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker
Body size: Around 6.75-7 in (17-18 cm) and a weight of 28 g (1 oz)
Main colors: Black, White, Red
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Downy woodpecker Description

Approximately six inches in length, with a small black bill, the downy woodpecker is a small woodpecker. With a white chest and back, black wings with white spots, a black tail, and a black head with a white “mustache” and white “eyebrows,” this creature stands out from the crowd. The male has a red patch on the back of his head, which distinguishes him from the female.

Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker
Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker. Photo by: NatureShutterbug


These birds have a length of 6.75-7 in (17-18 cm) and a weight of 28 g (1 oz). Their wings could range from 11-12 in (28-30 cm).


The diet consists primarily of insects and seeds; the male forages higher in the tree than the female, and the bird feeds on suet from bird feeders.


Forested areas, primarily deciduous, parks, and gardens are among the most preferred habitats. During the winter, they roost in tree cavities.


Downy woodpeckers inhabit deciduous trees in North America’s forests. Their range includes most of the United States and Canada, except for the southwestern deserts and northern tundra. Northern birds may migrate further south, mountain birds may relocate to lower elevations, and wetlands birds may relocate to higher elevations. During the breeding season, downy woodpeckers dig a nest cavity in a dead tree or limb. They spend the winter in tree cavities. Woodpeckers forage on trees, picking insects and other food off the bark in the summer and digging deeper in the winter.

Dryobates pubescens Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Picidae
  • Genus: Dyrobates
  • Species: Dryobates pubescens


There are seven subspecies that are recognized namely: D. p. glacialis – southeast AlaskaD. p. medianus – central Alaska to east Canada and central and east US, D. p. fumidus – southwest Canada and west Washington, D. p. gairdnerii  – west Oregon to northwest California, D. p. turati – central Washington to central California, D. p. leucurus – Rocky Mountains (southeast Alaska to southwest USA)D. p. pubescens – southeast USA

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December

Distribution of the Downy woodpecker in the USA

Alaskan native and current resident. Throughout most of North America and into Central America, this species can be found. The majority of the population is permanent residents. Birds from northern latitudes may migrate further south, while birds from mountainous regions may migrate to lower elevations.

The Downy woodpecker can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Dryobates Pubescens – Downy Woodpecker

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