If you hear each tap of the drum distinctly, it’s probably a downy woodpecker. The difference is that the hairy is faster than the downy. Hairy and downy woodpeckers both have short, even drums. A large Downy Woodpecker can sometimes be mistaken for a young, smaller Hairy Woodpecker. Hairy Woodpeckers are several inches larger than Downys. If you’re wondering if a woodpecker is a Hairy or Downy, this ID link from Audubon may help. Some may argue that size is the most obvious difference between Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers with the former measuring 6-1/2″ in length and the latter 9-1/2″. The differences between the Downy and Hairy woodpecker are very subtle. The Hairy Woodpecker is larger, louder, longer-billed, and has a less-marked tail than the Downy Woodpecker. The Hairy Woodpecker is about 30% larger than the Downy Woodpecker (depending on several variables). Bill size is another. Agreed, a 3″ size difference when it comes to birds is substantial; however, when seen at a distance or not side-by-side this can still leave many unsure. The active little Downy Woodpecker is a familiar sight at backyard feeders and in parks and woodlots, where it joins flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely outsizing them. Here is a picture with a Hairy Woodpecker on the left and a Downy Woodpecker on the right: Downy Woodpecker : Hairy Woodpecker: Picoides pubescens : Picoides villosus : Plumage patterns on the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are strikingly similar, with very little to differentiate the two species. The first photo in this post is not to scale, but it gives a great impression of the size difference between these two species. A good size comparison between a Hairy (left) and Downy Woodpecker (right), snapped by a FeederWatch participant. A few years ago I was alerted to a subtle difference in the head patterns of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers when I read a short note by Mark Szantyr with a nod to Julian Hough in the journal The Connecticut Warbler.He pointed out that Downy Woodpecker has a … Photo: Gary Mueller. The easiest way to tell the difference between the Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker is their size. The Hairy Woodpecker is also a year-round resident to Iowa and the majority of the United States. Downy Woodpeckers have shorter bills in relation to their body size where a Hairy Woodpecker… Both downies and hairies have black central tail feathers and white outer tail feathers, but there are a few sneaky clues to differentiate between the two. Smartly patterned in black and white, with a touch of red on the males, downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers look remarkably similar to each other. A careful observer will notice subtle differences, with the most obvious being a considerably longer, almost thorn-like bill on the Hairy Woodpecker. But for Richard Prum, the Yale University ornithologist who put forth the older mimicry idea, the relationship isn’t so clear-cut. An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and suet feeders. Pileated Woodpecker Prum still thinks Downys are trying to avoid being attacked by Hairys. Sometimes it is easy to tell the difference between a smaller Downy and larger Hairy Woodpecker but here are some woodpecker pictures showing how to tell the difference easily between the two woodpeckers without going just by size. While the little Downy Woodpeckers are very common at bird feeders, the shier Hairy Woodpeckers will come to feeders as well, and it can often be tricky to tell the difference between the two. 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