By Gerry Luginbuhl
Two Downy Woodpeckers have been visiting the suet feeder regularly this winter. They are a male and female and are looking very beautiful. The female was a bit camera-shy, but the male spent a long time at the feeder just outside the dining room window, allowing me to get this photo. The female looks almost the same, just missing the dab of red on the back of the head. This time of year, their feathers are still looking fresh although they probably molted last summer. Downys forage for insects along small branches and even on the stems of weeds. According to many sources, the males take the better spots and the females are more likely to forage on the trunks of trees. Downys can live in the same areas as larger woodpeckers such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers because the larger woodpeckers are too heavy to glean along small branches and stems. With this cold January weather, it’s a good thing Downys can find trees with roosting holes. They spend the night in such holes, usually bedding down separately. They may already be scouting out home-sites for the coming nesting season. He will do most of the excavating and will be looking for a snag, preferably soft wood such as pine. I haven’t been able to locate their roosting holes or new nesting holes yet. There are quite a few pine snags in our yard and in the neighbor’s yard, so hopefully they will find a suitable place to settle down and raise a family.