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bluedog1us

Downy or Hairy, and how do i tell the difference?

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Pictures taken in Louisiana, and for the life of me i cannot tell the difference in the two even while looking at a field guide.....Thanks in advance.

Downy Woodpecker 1 (4-26-12).JPG

Downy Woodpecker 2 (4-23-12).JPG

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So the Hairy has no dots on the outer tail feathers?  At least that give me something to go by......and the beak is longer....We have a lot of these here but so far I don't think i have ever taken a pic of a Hairy.  Thanks much.

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Posted (edited)

I would advise being a little more cautious about using the presence/absence of black on the outer tail feathers as a definitive field mark. Some Downy Woodpeckers show quite a bit of black, while others have little to even none.  A quick Google Images search on DOWO will bring up a number of Downies that almost completely lack any black spots.

It's a subtle clue, but not definitive- I'd argue that it's not that useful of a field mark, especially considering the fact that lightning can also have an impact on what is or isn't visible on a bird.

Other field marks such as bill length and overall structure are much better ways of identifying DOWO and HAWO in my opinion.

Edited by akiley
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Posted (edited)

BBC     Here's a Hairy Woodpecker I took a number of years ago in Suburban Chicago, Illinois.They are much bigger then a Downy, also the bill is much longer. Hope this helps.

33001366266_10219b30c4_b.jpgHairy Woodpecker (male) by R. Tompkins, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by BLTom
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Another mark for Hairy is the black "shoulder spur" that you can see coming forwards from the neck in that later shot. Two other issues with the tail spots: first, sometimes, you're not seeing the outermost tail feathers and the next pair or two in show less black than the outermost ones. Second, at least in some parts of the country Hairy can occasionally show a few black spots there.

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I got lucky with this shot last winter.  Male Downy and male Hairy on the same feeder at the same time.  

43381524384_9d362487ec_h.jpgIMGB3125 by ruthcatrin, on Flickr

For me the beak length is the biggest, and often easist, quick identifier.  The size (when seen in person) also usually jumps at me, though size is harder to tell in a photo usually.

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On 8/19/2018 at 5:06 PM, Charlie Spencer said:

@ruthcatrin, what's really great about your photo is the presence of the familiar suet cage.  That makes a great reference for size comparisons.

Mind, this is an oversized suet cage, but yes, it helps alot.

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