Saturday, November 23, 2013

Woodpecker Identification

Here's a post that comes from the Chantilly/Centreville area of Fairfax County, Virginia.  There's a lot of land in these places, both public and private, where I am camera-trapping.

The camera was originally placed to see the medium-sized to large mammals roaming around, but another species flew by and landed right in the camera's view.

It's a new species for me (at least for my camera trapping), but the problem is, I don't know what species this is.

It's either a downy woodpecker or a hairy woodpecker, but which?

Whenever I have questions about species I first try to identify it myself.  This is tough on this one, so I emailed and texted the pictures to my colleagues that have jobs and experiences such as birders, wildlife biologists, natural resource managers, and naturalists.

Some of them say hairy woodpecker, others say downy woodpecker.  So far, all of us think it is one of the two, but conversations of sapsuckers have also arisen.

I'd really like to solve this mystery.

Other important information that may be necessary to note is that the camera's date stamp is incorrect, and that this was in Fairfax, Virginia.  The correct date stamp should read, "11-19-2013".  The pictures in this post are the only pictures I captured of it.

What bird is this?

Comments below are greatly appreciated.


  1. What species of Sapsuckers do you have around? All I found was Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. To me, in my amateur birding-and-camera-trap-mystery-critter-identifying experience, I saw Downy. Although it's hard to see, that bill just doesn't look heavy enough to me to be a Hairy. I say NO to Sapsucker because: if you consider that it's a YBSA, it's too clean, white looking. No red cap. And thin black supercillium. IMO! So, I saw Downy.

    Check this site out:

    Also, if you're interested, I would reblog these pics and link to you. I have a few birders who follow me on the newspaper blog I write.

    1. Yellow bellied sapsucker is basically what I meant. I like your opinion about the bill length though! And yes I would love a reblog/link as long as I am credited with the photos or blog name.

  2. Replies
    1. What field marks are you going by? Wing color patterns? Head-to-beak ratio?


  4. Definitely not a Sapsucker. That white Stripe down the back makes it either Downey or Hairy.

  5. That white stripe down the back makes it either a Downey or Hairy.

    1. Do you see any other field markings that would make it downy or a hairy?

  6. An estimate of its size would help, it would be the widest downy I've ever seen, but the red on back of head means it is a male of either hairy or downy species. The beak is longer in a hairy but is hard to see in these pics, I lean towards downy because of the amount of white on back of neck and roundness of head, hairy seem to have a more elongated head.