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Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers

How do you tell them apart?

These Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers appear nearly identical, but the Hairy Woodpecker is larger than the Downy, with a distinctly longer bill. And it doesn't have the black spots on its outer tail feathers like the Downy. But even if you can’t observe these spunky birds, you can identify them by listening carefully. The call of the Downy Woodpecker is soft and downy, like a duvet. The call of the Hairy Woodpecker is loud and hairy, like a heavy metal band!

Today's show was brought to you thanks to generous support from the Bobolink Foundation.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®
Downy and Hairy - Two Similar Woodpeckers
Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!

[Downy Woodpecker “whinny” or “rattle” call + Music] That's the call of a Downy Woodpecker.

[Similar call of Hairy Woodpecker + Music] And that's the call of the Hairy Woodpecker.

[Downy Woodpecker “whinny” or “rattle” call + Music] Downy.

[Similar call of Hairy Woodpecker + Music] Hairy.

Got that? Funny thing though, the Downy isn't particularly downy and the Hairy isn't particularly hairy. And they're nearly identical in plumage. 

The Hairy Woodpecker's the larger of the two, though, with a distinctly longer bill. And it doesn't have the black spots on its outer tail feathers like the Downy. It's the Downy you'll see most often at suburban feeders, especially in deciduous woodland: small, black and white, the male sporting a vivid red patch on the back of its head. His Hairy cousin prefers hanging out in coniferous woods.

But even if you don’t see them, you can still tell them apart by those calls. Remember, soft and Downy, like a duvet: [Downy Woodpecker “pik” call + Music]

…loud and Hairy, like a heavy metal band: [Hairy Woodpecker “pik” call + Music]

Today's show was brought to you thanks to generous support from the Bobolink Foundation.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,
Ithaca, New York. Hairy Woodpecker 'pik' call (49075) recorded by Kevin J Colver; Hairy Woodpecker 'whinny call' (85105), Downy Woodpecker 'pik' call and Downy Woodpecker 'whinny' call (107281) all recorded by W. L. Hershberger.
Theme from 'A Summer Place' composed by Percy Faith. 2010, Ling Music Group
'Ace of Spades' by Motorhead, written by Edward Clarke, Ian Kilmister & Phil Taylor. 1981 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd, a BMG Company
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org November 2014/2017 Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# DOWO-HAWO-01-2014-11-14

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