Fledgling Downy Woodpecker

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Every once in a while I photograph a bird or an animal and then have difficulty identifying it.  That is certainly the case with today’s individual.  After considerable uncertainty I’ve  decided that it is a fledgling Downy Woodpecker.

There are two woodpecker species that are indistinguishable to the untrained eye,  the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker.  They share habitat and their plumage is virtually identical.  There are size differences between the species with the Hairy Woodpecker being the larger of the two.  Also, the Hairy Woodpecker has a significantly larger beak than has the Downy Woodpecker.  Indeed, beak size may be the best way to distinguish the two species.

Yesterday, I posted an image of a bird that I am certain is a female Downy Woodpecker.  She definitely has a petite beak,  quite small by woodpecker standards.

Now, here’s today’s bird,  yet another woodpecker that I photographed recently at the summit of Mt. Lemmon.

At first impression and as late as yesterday evening I thought that this is a Hairy Woodpecker because of the relative size of its beak, which appears to me to be bigger in proportion to the bird than is the beak on yesterday’s female Downy Woodpecker.  The more I look at it, however, the more convinced I am that this bird is in fact, a Downy Woodpecker.  Its beak looks a bit bigger than the beak on yesterday’s bird, but I believe that is an optical illusion.

I am absolutely certain that this is not an adult bird, but rather, a very young woodpecker that fledged this year.  Adult male Downy Woodpeckers have red caps at the rear of their heads.  The fledglings and juveniles have red caps at the front.  Also, the dark spots on this bird’s breast are typical of a fledgling and not of an adult of either species.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000, f5.6 @ 1/1000.

One response to “Fledgling Downy Woodpecker”

  1. tkiiatmindspringcom says :

    Whichever Woodpecker this is, it is darn cute!

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