The beaks of these woodpeckers are rather small, black, and pointed. They are made for chiselling away the bark of trees in search of burrowing insects. They have tremendous neck muscles and special cushioning within their heads to avoid concussions while happily hammering away. It is with this ability that woodpeckers create holes in trees to make nests and raise their young. In the spring, they can be heard hammering on a dead branch to claim territory and attract a mate.
Downy woodpeckers are about the size of a sparrow, with black and white patterned feathers. They have short black and white tails. The males have red showing at the back of the head.
Naturally, woodpeckers take care of insects that attack trees and will use dead trees to make their nests. At feeders though, they love suet and peanuts and will also enjoy black oil seeds in a hanging feeder. Remember that since these birds are climbers, they will not be comfortable feeding on the ground. Instead, they need something they can cling to as they hammer away in a vertical position.
Downy woodpeckers are our most common resident woodpecker. They do not migrate south in the winter and are quite able to withstand our winters here. They are commonly found in mixed woodland and especially in hardwood stands of maple and birch. They can be found in all parts of Nova Scotia from cities and parkland to residential areas to deep woodland forests. They are relatively tame and approachable and a favourite feeder visitor.