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)

For the birds


This guy is skittish – it took awhile to get this shot. I think the food helped. (Photo: Huffygirl)
Another snowy day in Michigan, with threats of a winter storm today. A good time to snuggle in at home, sit back and enjoy the birds. 

If you see Mr. Cardinal, you can be sure that his reddish-brown mate is nearby. (Photo: Huffygirl)

Birdy footprints in the snow. (Photo: Huffygirl)

Pre squirrel baffle - this guy was making himself too much at home. (Photo: Huffygirl)

This bird was at the beach near Lake Michigan. I thought it was a Killdeer but it does not match the picture in my bird book. Does anyone know who this is? (Photo: Huffygirl)

The clinging Downy Woodpecker can hang upside down to get the last little bit of suet left in the feeder. There's also a perch nearby so the perching birds can try the suet too. (Photo: Huffygirl)

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

HuffyHow: Birdy buffet


Unfortunately this poor bird is named "Tufted Titmouse." (Photo: Huffygirl)

This time of year the winter doldrums begin to set in. The fun of Christmas and New Year’s has passed and the Superbowl without The Bears is just not anything to get excited about. It’s too early to psyche oneself up for spring and Valentine’s Day is just a blip of a holiday.   That makes it a great time of year to enjoy watching the colorful and interesting birds that come to backyard feeders many times a day. Backyard bird feeding is not hard, and for

Goldfinches are harder to spot in winter when their yellow plumage has faded. Look for the white and black bars on the wings. (Photo: Huffygirl)

 a minimal investment you can enjoy watching the birds from the cozy inside comfort. If you haven’t been feeding the birds since fall, it may take a while to attract them to a new feeder. Be patient – this is the time of year when birds are burning lots of calories to stay warm, and they’ll eventually figure out there is a new feeder in town and come around. The best place to get advice on how to start bird feeding is your local birdseed store. There ‘s also a ton of information available online. In the meantime, here’s a few HuffyHow tips.

My bird feeders: note squirrel baffle and ground cover. (Photo: Huffygirl)

Start with a basic pole and offer at least  two different foods. This time of  year the birds are looking for high-fat foods to help them stay warm, so a good place to start is a suet or Bark Butter feeder (a commercial suet and peanut butter mix) and a mixed seed feeder with peanuts, sunflower seeds and millet. My feeders are: mixed seed and peanuts in the green feeder; mixed finch food in the tube feeder, suet in the green cylinder and Bark Butter on the wooden board.

Tell the squirrels to keep out. Use a squirrel baffle on your pole and place it

Keep these guys out! (Photo: Huffygirl)

far enough away from ledges, roofs, and decks from which the squirrels can jump onto your pole. Or use only squirrel-proof feeders, like the green one here. If you feel too sorry for the squirrels to exclude them, set out corn in a squirrel feeding area separate from your bird feeder. Don’t feel too sorry for them – if you let squirrels take over your feeder, the birds will be driven away.

A basic heated bird bath (Photo: Huffygirl)

Provide a water source – a heated bird bath works great. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even in the winter.

Keep things clean – periodically clean feeders according to the recommendations that came with your feeder, and discard seed that becomes wet or moldy. Spoiled seed can make birds sick.

Don’t forget the ground feeders. Birds like  Juncos and Mourning Doves only eat from the ground.  Most of the time enough seed will fall from your feeder onto the ground for these critters, or you can sprinkle some out periodically or add a ground feeder station. (but be careful, these can attract squirrels.) I put a handful of seed on my patio ledge so I can

This guy eats mainly close to the ground (Photo: Huffygirl)

 watch the skittish Dark-eyed Juncos.

Avoid bargain bin seed. There’s often a lot of filler in the cheaper discount seed. The bags may be cheaper but you spend more in the long run because there’s more waste. I like the “no mess” varieties of seed which only uses shelled seeds. These cost more, but there is no wasted seed, and no mess of seed shells on the ground to clean up later.

Clinging birds like this Downy Woodpecker and Flickers, like the suet and Bark Butter. This feeder is just a board with a clip on the back.

Provide cover. Birds need plants and bushes nearby to give them shelter while feeding. You can give them some extra shelter in the coldest months by recycling your Christmas tree as a temporary shelter underneath the feeder.

Name names. Get a bird guide-book or check online.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.