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Posts Tagged ‘Dryobates pubescens’

I love getting photos of big, spectacular birds like the Bald Eagles that I have featured recently, but I also enjoy photographing smaller birds that others often ignore, like these industrious little Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) that I have spotted in December at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in our area and are the ones that I am most likely to see. I have always admired their work ethic—they appear to have endless energy and are constantly in motion as the poke, probe, and hammer with their bills in search of little insects.

Normally I see Downy Woodpeckers in an upright position, but the one in the first photo was perched horizontally as he investigated a fallen branch. I can tell it is a male because I can see a little bit of the red patch on the back of his head that females do not have.

I am fascinated by the pose of the Downy Woodpecker in the second photo. The woodpecker is perched on a small branch with poison ivy berries, which many bird species eat during the winter, but seems to be attracted to the tree in the distance. Does the woodpecker think that the pickings may be better on the tree (or maybe I should say “peckings” rather than “pickings”)?

As I was preparing this post, I was shocked to discover that the Latin name for this species had changed. From the very start, my photography mentor Cindy Dyer encouraged me to include both the common names and the Latin names for my subjects and I have tried to follow that practice. I am used to using the Latin name Picoides pubescens and learned that it is now referred to as Dryobates pubescens.

What happened? I do not know all of the details, but, according to Wikipedia, as a result of a 2015 molecular phylogenetic study, the Downy Woodpecker was moved out of the genus Picodes and placed with four other species in the resurrected genus Dryobates. It is intriguing to see that scientists are constantly learning new things about the birds and other creatures that I have the privilege of photographing. Wow!

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) are the smallest woodpeckers in North America.  They more than make up for their lack of size, however, with their inexhaustible energy. Their constant motion makes them fun to watch, but a challenge to photograph.

I spotted this male Downy Woodpecker earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. How do I know that it is a male? The males of this species have a little patch of red on the back of their heads and in each of these photos you get a small peek at the red on the head.

 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems like we are at a time in the year when the number of birds has increased. I can hear them everywhere when I walk along the wooded trails of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The problem, though, is that most the leaves are still on the trees, so I am having huge problems spotting the birds and if I can’t see them, I can’t photograph them.

Earlier this week, I heard the familiar knocking sound of a woodpecker at work. I could see some movement in a tree amidst the foliage. I tracked the movement until suddenly the woodpecker popped into the open for a brief moment as it reached the top of the dead tree. I was able to capture this one shot of what appears to be a male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)—only males have the red patch of feathers on the back of their heads. (The Hairy Woodpecker is similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, but is larger and has a longer bill—the angle of this shot makes it tough for me to be absolutely certain of my identification.)

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in Northern America, but what they lack in size, they seem to make up in energy. They always seem to be super energetic and industrious and are one of the birds that I am able to spot throughout most the entire year.

downy woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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