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The Diminutive Downy Woodpecker

The smallest woodpecker in North America

As part of their spring courtship, Downy Woodpeckers perform a spectacular "butterfly flight." The birds seem to dance in the air, holding their wings high, and flapping slowly and lazily like butterflies. It's the smallest woodpecker in North America, and you might miss it, as it pecks for insects on trunks and branches of trees. Dead trees left standing -- known as "snags" -- can attract woodpeckers and other wildlife. 

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Downy Woodpecker

Adapted from a script by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote. 

[Call of Pileated Woodpecker]

There’s the big, flashy, red-crested Pileated Woodpecker and the noisy Northern Flicker, the one that pounds on metal gutters [Northern Flicker pounding]. Today, I’d like you to meet a quiet, diminutive, woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker. [Pik-pik, and whinny of the Downy Woodpecker]

The smallest woodpecker in North America, the Downy measures in at three inches shorter than a robin. [Drumming of Downy Woodpecker] You might not even notice it, as it pecks for insects on trunks and branches of trees. But if you do, you’ll see a black and white bird with bold stripes on its head. The male is easily distinguished from the female by the crimson-red splash at the back of its head. 

It’s rare to see this, but as part of their spring courtship, Downy Woodpeckers perform a spectacular display called the “butterfly flight.” The male and female seem to dance among the trees, holding their wings high, and flapping slowly and lazily like butterflies. More likely, you’ll hear the drumming of the Downy. [Three series of Downy Woodpecker drum-rolls]

Woodpeckers remind us to value what some think of as “dead” trees. They’re “alive” with nourishment. For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

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Call and sounds of the Downy Woodpecker provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Drumming ML 44905 recorded by G.A.Keller; pik-pik ML 107281 call by W.L. Hershberger; rattle call by W.W.H. Gunn. 
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org   Revised for May 2015

ID#050205DOWOKPLU        DOWO-01b-2009-05-15-MS-

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