Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The downy woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, is a common year-round resident in forests, riparian woodlands, parks, and suburbs throughout Canada and most of the United States (including southern Alaska). It is a common resident throughout the state of Utah, where it breeds in montane aspen forests and winters in lowland valleys.

The diet of the downy woodpecker consists primarily of insects, but fruits, seeds, and sap are also consumed. Individuals either glean food items directly off of a tree, or drill into tree bark. Both sexes participate in courtship displays involving "dancing" and drumming. Pairs establish large territories that shrink after the nest is built. The female selects a site, and then a nest is excavated in a dead tree or tree limb. It usually takes just over two weeks to excavate the hole and line the nest. Both parents incubate the four or five eggs for twelve days. The young are born immobile, naked, and blind, and both parents feed the helpless nestlings. The young leave the nest after about three weeks, but they are dependent on their parents for another three weeks.


  • National Geographic Society. 1996. Field guide to the birds of North America, 2nd edition. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.