Downtown Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker | Picoides pubescens on Elderberry
Downy Woodpecker | Picoides pubescens on Elderberry

A week ago I noticed a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) working its way through the domestic Elderberry on our front lawn and hurried out to get a photograph. Unfortunately it had moved a little too high into the shrub and was beyond the effective reach of my lens to get a good photograph.

Yesterday it returned, or at least I thought it did.

Downy Woodpecker | Picoides pubescens - male
Downy Woodpecker | Picoides pubescens - male

When I looked at my previous images I realized that this was a different woodpecker. The previous visitor was a female, it had no distinct red marking on the back of the head. This one did, making it a male. Note also the short bill with the conspicuous tuft at its base, amount of white markings on the wings, and the relatively small size of the bird. These field marks serve to distinguish it from the larger Hairy Woodpecker here on the West Coast.

Our house is about six blocks from downtown Courtenay but is in a fairly quiet residential area with a number of large, mature Douglas Fir. The yards are big and most of the people on our street have gardens. Our sunflowers have been a big draw for other backyard birds like American goldfinches and a host of sparrows and house finches (I’ve been trying to photograph the latter but they’ve been too skittish for me to get close enough).

I have to say that these Downy Woodpeckers have been a highlight for us and we’ve enjoyed watching them. I’m glad that there seems to be a pair of them and I think that I’ll wait until spring to prune back our elderberries.