Plate 9: Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

Nests & Eggs: Downy Woodpecker

The smallest member of the woodpecker family in North America…and the most helpful!

The sparrow-size Downy Woodpecker resembles his robin-size cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker, but his notes are a little softer and his tapping a little faster for his short bill can produce no such wallop as the heavy-billed Hairy. The outer tail feathers are barred, instead of the black and white pattern of the latter. Both males show a red spot on the nape which is lacking on the females. General coloring is black and white.

While this friendly little woodpecker relishes suet, he does not let his visits to your feeder interfere with his constant search for the larvae which he finds in galls, cornstalks, weed stems or the bark of trees. He makes a small opening into the tunnel where the larvae are hiding, then inserts his long tongue and spears the worm. Nature has provided him with a barbed spear on his long tongue and he uses it constantly in protecting our trees.

Spring brings much activity for a nesting site must be found, then the labor of digging a cavity from 8 to 12 inches deep in a post, dead limb or tree trunk. The home may be near the ground or high in some tree and often is found with the entrance beneath a limb. There the young are protected until they can join their parents in their search for insects.

Introduction to Our Bird Friends, Vol I
  • Print out the notebooking pages provided below.
  • Read the Downy Woodpecker story in Bird Biographies out loud.
  • Have a younger student orally narrate what was read. He can then copy a few lines of his narration onto the notebooking pages.
  • Older students can read the text, Plate IX: Downy Woodpecker, and provide a written narration.
  • Sketch the bird. This encourages attention to detail, which will aid in identifying the bird later on. Another option is to use the printables provided below.
  • Sketch the nest of the bird, along with the eggs. Note where the nest is usually found.
  • Older students can include the taxonomy.
  • Learn more about the Downy Woodpecker at Cornell.
  • On one notebooking page note the facts:
    • Description.
    • Habitat.
    • Range.
    • Food.
    • Nest.
    • Eggs.
    • Call.
  • The woodpecker is covered in The Burgess Bird Book: CHAPTER XI. Drummers and Carpenters.
Additional Resources

30 Narration Ideas
At some point you might appreciate some variety.

The Bird Study sections of our free nature study series: Our Wonderful World:

Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Printables & Notebooking Pages

Downy Woodpecker Notebooking Pages
Free simple notebooking set.

Downy Woodpecker
Bird picture for notebook.

Downy the Woodpecker
Corresponding print from The Burgess Bird Book.

Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book

Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book
Dover Nature Coloring Book based on Fifty Birds of Town and City by Bob Hines. Includes the downy woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker Range Map
For notebook from Cornell.

Bird Facts Notebooking Page
One option in a more graphic organizer style that is especially nice for noting the facts and range.

Enjoy the entire series:

Create a website or blog at