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A good size comparison between a Hairy (left) and Downy Woodpecker (right), snapped by a FeederWatch participant. But for Richard Prum, the Yale University ornithologist who put forth the older mimicry idea, the relationship isn’t so clear-cut. The Downy shot is a bit closer up so the size difference is hard to gauge, but the Hairy Woodpecker is noticeably larger and has a longer beak. The differences between the Downy and Hairy woodpecker are very subtle. The first photo in this post is not to scale, but it gives a great impression of the size difference between these two species. 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. The easiest way to tell the difference between the Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker is their size. 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. The difference is that the hairy is faster than the downy. Prum still thinks Downys are trying to avoid being attacked by Hairys. The Hairy Woodpecker is larger, louder, longer-billed, and has a less-marked tail than the Downy Woodpecker. A large Downy Woodpecker can sometimes be mistaken for a young, smaller Hairy Woodpecker. Hairy and downy woodpeckers both have short, even drums. Upon seeing an individual bird, identification can at first be difficult. 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. 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… 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. 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 … Pileated Woodpecker Here is a picture with a Hairy Woodpecker on the left and a Downy Woodpecker on the right: A careful observer will notice subtle differences, with the most obvious being a considerably longer, almost thorn-like bill on the 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. The Hairy Woodpecker is about 30% larger than the Downy Woodpecker (depending on several variables). Downy Woodpecker Bill size is another. Photo: Gary Mueller. The Downy Woodpecker is so similar in looks to the Hairy Woodpecker, that when seen together, they are often confused as the male and female of a single species. 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. Hairy Woodpeckers are several inches larger than Downys. 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. If you’re wondering if a woodpecker is a Hairy or Downy, this ID link from Audubon may help. 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