Downy and Hairy: The city bird and the country bird


Downy Woodpecker (© Huffygirl 2012)

I’ve been seeing Downy and Red-breasted Woodpeckers at my bird feeders for quite a while, as long as I keep putting out their two favorite foods: suet and Bark Butter, which is fancy bird peanut butter. Lately I’ve had a large, animated visitor to the Bark Butter board, who aggressively attacks the Bark Butter and keeps coming back for more, but is easily scared and flits away at the sound of my turning on the camera, even from ten feet away, inside the house. At first I thought this was a Downy gone wild, but I think what I may be seeing is a new visitor, a Hairy Woodpecker.

Downy W. or Hairy? (© Huffygirl 2012)

Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are quite similar in coloring, although Hairy is differentiated by its larger size and longer beak. Downy has a speckled white patch on the back, while Hairy’s patch is all white, often difficult to distinguish from a distance. Hairy is a shy country  bird, usually sticking to forests and is skittish at crowded feeders. Downy, the city bird,  frequents suburban yards and is not afraid to join the food fray with chickadees and nuthatches at feeders.

This new visitor has been difficult to catch with the camera, so I’m still not sure if he is Downy or Hairy. I’ll let the readers, and perhaps some bird experts out there decide. Meanwhile, I’ll keep putting out lots of Bark Butter at the feeder, as it seems to be like crack for the birds. They appear the minute I put it out, and scrape the board completely clean in short order.Even non-clinging birds like the shy ground-feeding Junco’s will have a go at perching on the board to get a taste.

Junco perching to eat Bark Butter (© Huffygirl 2012)

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18 thoughts on “Downy and Hairy: The city bird and the country bird

  1. I’ve never heard of bark butter- and love the idea of a piece of wood and some special food for those pretty, yet often pesky birds. We’ve had our share of woodpecker holes to fill– maybe this is a good deterrent.

    • You can buy the bark butter at a bird seed store. I bought the board feeder there too – just a short board with a clamp on the back. You could easily make your own if you’re handy. You can also just spread the butter on a tree trunk, but if you do that, you’ll have squirrels stealing it all.

      I leave the bark butter feeder out until spring, when the starlings start to come and steal it, then I put it away until the next winter. I’ve heard that woodpeckers pecking at the trees are actually removing dangerous boring insects from your trees, so suposedly it helps, not hurts the tree.

  2. I love watching the birds at my feeders. Had a huge hawk land in our yard near a window. No idea why he was there but I took several photos.

    • I hate to say it, but usually the hawks are there this time of year to snag a snack at the feeder – aka a smaller bird or rodent. I’ve seen a few hawks occasionally too – they’re beautiful and surprising to see. Fortunately I’ve never seen them at work.

    • No, I buy it at a bird seed store, and the brand name is Bark Butter. It comes in a large tub. I’ve tried putting out ordinary people peanut butter instead but the birds won’t touch it.

  3. Pingback: News from the Huffy aviary | Huffygirl's Blog

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