Bird Database

Downy Woodpecker

(Dryobates pubescens)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Strongly increasing


Predation, Collisions

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird friendly yard

Downy Woodpecker

(Dryobates pubescens)

The Downy is our smallest and most familiar woodpecker and is a frequent visitor to bird feeders across the state. They do not migrate and can be found statewide, although less commonly in pure conifer stands and at high elevation. Because of their size, Downies can use relatively small trees and branches for their nest cavities, and for this reason are more common than other woodpeckers in young forests. They’ve also been known to excavate chambers in fence posts, but rarely occupy nest boxes. Nest cavities average 6-10 inches deep and 2-3 inches in diameter, and in New Hampshire are typically dug in late April. The trees selected are typically dead or dying. Four to six eggs are laid at the bottom of the hole and are incubated for about twelve days. Young leave the nest about three weeks later, but still rely on their parents for most food for another three weeks. This extended post-fledging period is probably why Downy Woodpeckers don’t attempt second broods.

The next time you see a Downy Woodpecker, note its sex and where it’s foraging. Several studies have documented males tending to feed on small branches and saplings, while females are on trunks and larger limbs. One hypothesis is that this difference is because males are dominant over females and exclude them from preferred foraging sites. Does this mean there’s more, better, or easier reached food in the areas frequented by males? Because they are so small, Downy Woodpeckers are also commonly seen foraging on stems of herbaceous plants such as goldenrod, as well as on insect-formed galls on a variety of plants.

Like many of our common non-migratory birds, Downy Woodpeckers are generally increasing in New Hampshire. This probably reflects their ability to thrive in human-dominated landscapes and changes in forest cover. Over this same time period, numbers declined in an undisturbed part of the White Mountains National Forest as the forest matured and there were fewer smaller trees.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Downy Woodpecker
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count