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Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers


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#1 spottedowl

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 01:38 PM

 Another way to tell the difference between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers is to look at their tail feathers. The Downy has bars or spots on the feathers, whereas the Hairy doesn't.

This method isn't very useful if you can't see the white tail feathers clearly , though. 



#2 viconk

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 04:21 PM

THANKS spottedowl. That will be a huge help for me identifying them in my yard. I can't always get a picture that would show the tail feathers clearly, but it gives me something to at least look for when I'm watching them.

#3 birdseye

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:17 PM

actually, according to my books, hairy can also have the black bars....

#4 birdseye

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:42 PM

actually i dont believe that... none of my other books say the hairy will have spots/bars on thier tails....Sibleys is less accurate than i would like it to be, cuz i rely on it alot...maybe i shouldnt... what  does everyone else think ?

 



#5 spottedowl

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 09:32 AM

I've found that Sibley's is mostly  accurate, but I prefer to use my National Geographic Guide. I think that the pictures are too small in Sibley's and the descriptions can be a little confusing.  The Hairy definitely  doesn't have the bars/ spots ( I know from reading and experience)


#6 featherbrain

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 05:24 PM

I've found that IDying Hairy/Downy by tail is extremely difficult as very rarely do you get to see the tail, though if you have pictures then the tail can be helpful and often times at feeders you can see it clearly, but what do you do if you have a worn Downy that has no bars (or only very faint) on the tail?  I've found that bill size is the way to go no matter what. What I do is mentally "remove" the bill and place it beside the birds head, Hairys will have a huge bill, approximately the length of the head, where as Downy will barely cover half. Always remember, Downy is dinky (and have dinky bills) and Hairy is huge (and have huge bills).

 

Hope this helps!

 

 



#7 spottedowl

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 03:15 PM

As I said earlier, this isn't always the best or most practical method. It does often work when you can see it clearly. Downys and Hairys  can be sometimes difficult to id even by looking at the bill or size, especially if you don't see the two species standing next to each other. Also , Hairy Woodpeckers have much variation depending  on which region you live in. I meant that this can be helpful when you can see the tail and are not sure about the size. I agree that the General Impression of Size and Shape birding method is important in this case.


#8 featherbrain

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 02:11 PM

Yeah it definitely is helpful when you see the tail, but when you can't see it you got to use something eles. Size is not very helpful at all, but bill size is like I said previously. You don't have to see the two sitting next to each other to judge bill size.

 

 



#9 spottedowl

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 01:43 PM

You are right about bill size.


#10 birdseye

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:38 AM

ok,...now Sibleys and National Geographics Complete  Birds of North America state ( i can't quote,  illegal you know)..Hairies may show black spots on the outer tail feathers! and some downy may lack them! they state the best  ruler is the bill to head comparison. Not the tail spots or lack thereof

#11 eric

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 06:03 PM

Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America says: "Downy usually has dark bars on outer tail feathers, but these may also be shown by Hairy Woodpeckers, especially in Newfoundland."

My backyard gets Downy's, so it was natural for me to adopt a "Downy until proven otherwise" stance, and carefully look at ratio of bill to head.  When I finally did see a Hairy (not in backyard), the bill size stood out in stark contrast.



#12 cnybirder

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 01:39 PM

Alot of good advice here.

I can almost always tell between Downy and hairy without any field marks. But the reason is that I can see both everyday and I get so used to identifying them without thinking.  I think the biggest thing is to estimate the size of the bird compared with other birds, this is especially possible at the feeder. Hairys are much bigger than Downys (usually). The bill a very good identification mark as well.


#13 cairnstone

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 03:07 PM

 

If it looks like a Downy on steroids it's a Hairy.

If it looks like a Hairy midget it's a Downy.

Simple. No?



#14 luv2bird

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 05:32 PM

Hey watch these videos for fun at http://www.birdcinem...?search_id=suet



#15 fhood

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 02:01 PM

I think that the easiest way to identify the two is to look at the body shape. The downy has fluffier feathers ( hence DOWNY) and is smaller.

#16 eric

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Posted 10 April 2009 - 07:00 AM

Pics of a Downy and Hairy side-by-side:

http://www.centralma...rs WEB40195.jpg
http://www.dorsetvt....birds/dec08.jpg






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