Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)


French: Pic mineur German: Dunenspecht Spanish: Pico pubescente

Picus pubescens


, 1766,

South Carolina, USA


Closely related to D. nuttallii (with which has hybridized) and D. scalaris, and all three previously placed in genus Picoides; DNA analyses indicate relationship also with D. minor, strongly supported by recent molecular study#R. Nominate race and medianus intergrade widely in C USA. Clinal variation in size, decreasing from N to S. Additional named races nelsoni (Alaska to Alberta) and microleucus (Newfoundland) considered unacceptable. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. p. medianus (Swainson, 1832) – C Alaska and Canada (E of Rockies, from S Mackenzie and Alberta) E to S Quebec and Newfoundland, and S in USA to Nebraska and Virginia.
  • D. p. glacialis Grinnell, 1910 – SE Alaskan coast.
  • D. p. fumidus Maynard, 1889 – W British Columbia S along coast to extreme NW USA (W Washington).
  • D. p. gairdnerii (Audubon, 1839) – coastal W USA from Oregon to NW California.
  • D. p. leucurus (Hartlaub, 1852) – Rocky Mts from SE Alaska S to NE California, Arizona and New Mexico.
  • D. p. turati (Malherbe, 1860) – inland Washington and Oregon, and California (except NW & NE).
  • D. p. pubescens (Linnaeus, 1766) – Kansas E to North Carolina and S to SE Texas and Florida.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; 20·7–32·2 g, mean 27·0 g. Male has whitish nasal tufts, black forehead to hindcrown, red nape, narrowly black hindneck; white... read more


    Single “pik” notes, sometimes at high rates in alarm; characteristic series of notes,... read more


    Deciduous and mixed forest, woodland, second growth, parks and gardens, including in suburban and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects, some vegetable matter. Wood-boring larvae an important component; beetles and ants each form about a third of the diet;... read more


    Egg-laying in Apr–May in Florida, in May–Jul in British Columbia; may rear more than 1 brood within a season. Flutter-aerial... read more


    Resident in most of range. N and montane populations partially migratory or disperse over longer... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to very common; the commonest woodpecker in many parts of range. Populations generally stable, with some local increases; adaptable, able to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 June 2019).