Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pic of the Day

Hairy Woodpecker,  Picoides villosus:
Horse Cove; near Gurley, Alabama

Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens:
Horse Cove; near Gurley, Alabama
      Many Hairy vs Downy Woodpecker identification sites mention that Hairy Woodpeckers have all-white outer tail feathers (rectrices), as compared to Downy Woodpeckers whose outer tail feathers have black bars.  What is not mentioned, is that Hairy Woodpeckers may have a few black marks on the outer rectrices[1].  Around my house, all of the Hairy Woodpeckers I have seen, have a few black spots on the outer rectrices also, as shown in this photo. (top)
     Also note that the Hairy Woodpecker's bill length is almost as long as the width of its head, while the length of the Downy Woodpecker's bill length is less than half the width of its head.
I often have to look twice when I see either of these birds at my feeder, and look very carefully at the bird's bill length.  You can't always rely on dark spots on the outer rectrices to separate the two species.

[1] Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1 Columbidae to Ploceidae; Peter Pyle; Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California; 1997, p189

Top (Hairy Woodpecker):  Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/80 second @ f/7.1
Bottom (Downy Woodpecker): Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/160 second @ f/7.1

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