Quiz: Hairy Versus Downy Woodpeckers?

You’ve likely spied a couple of different woodpeckers visiting your feeder this winter. But can you tell the species apart?

Downy and hairy woodpeckers side-by-sideThe colors and patterning of hairy and downy woodpeckers are nearly identical, making these two bird species easy to confuse.

Seen next to each other (as in the picture) their size difference makes identification easy, if you know which one is larger.

The larger bird on the right is the hairy woodpecker; the smaller (left) is a downy.

But, if only one woodpecker is at your feeder, how do you know hairy versus downy?

The best way to tell these two woodpeckers apart is by the size of their bill. The hairy woodpecker has a beak almost as long as its head; i.e., it has a a big beak.

The downy woodpecker, on the other hand, has a very small beak compared to the size of its head.

Now all you need is some kind of mnemonic to remember that hairy equals big beak and downy equals small!

This article originally appeared in Oct. 2014.