Friday, March 18, 2011

Hairy Woodpecker or Downy Woodpecker?

Today, enjoying our 64 degree weather (last day of that for a while) spouse had just gotten out of his car when he heard a tapping sound.  Looking up at an electric pole near our driveway, he observed a small black and white bird pecking away where a small piece of the pole was trying to come off.

Looking at a wonderful website the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has, we have concluded he was watching either a Downy Woodpecker or a Hairy Woodpecker.

But which one was it?

Apparently telling a downy apart from a hairy is one of the first challenges a new birder faces.  They look very much alike, so much so that Cornell provides a visual comparison of the two.

For the Hairy Woodpecker, Cornell instructs us: "Note the well-developed "comma-shaped" black mark extending from the shoulder onto the breast. This feature is often less obvious in Downy's and is sometimes a useful distinguishing mark."

And, I guess we should have "Look for black on the outer tail feathers."

What spouse had observed the most was the drum. So sure enough, this website had audio files of the call and drum of each, and this clinched it.  No doubt in spouse's mind, it was a downy woodpecker.

Is this the beginning of a new hobby for our old age? 

Thank you for the research material, Cornell!

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