Tuesday 17 June 2014

Downy Woodpecker x Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker x Hairy Woodpecker hybrid, Lamar Community College, Prowers County (Colorado, USA), 15th May 2014 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo ID: 1582)

Steve found this bird with Nick Moore and he takes up the story:
"We first noticed this bird because it flew towards us giving a rattle call that sounded much like that of a Hairy Woodpecker.  We then saw the dark wings and became excited about the bird being a Rocky Mountain Hairy.  It was only later that we realized the thing had a barred undertail.  Then we looked at the beak, and well, it was in between that of Downy and Hairy (probably more like Downy).  The head shape was usually flattish, more like that of a Hairy.  The supercilium and white stripe below the auriculars are both on the narrow side, more like a montane Hairy than either Rocky Mountain or Eastern Downy.  Perhaps a Rocky Mountain Hairy wandered down to the lowlands and bred with an eastern Downy (there was a montane Hairy at Van's Grove, Bent County, well into May last year - and again this year).  The bird was recorded (by Nick) giving a Hairy-like "PEEK" call.  Given the Hairy Woodpecker like calls, the barred undertail, the intermediate size (as judged by us in field, more like Hairy Woodpecker) and bill, and the Rocky Mountain Hairy Woodpecker like head pattern... it seems that Hairy Woodpecker x Downy Woodpecker seems the correct diagnosis."

Downy Woodpecker x Hairy Woodpecker hybrid (same bird as in photo ID 1582 above), Lamar Community College, Prowers County (Colorado, USA), 15th May 2014 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo IDs: 1578-1581)

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus


  1. I was with some friends in the Oregon Coast range and we saw a bird that we are pretty sure was this hybrid. Here is my friend's description:

    1. Body size seemed slightly smaller than that of an average Hairy, but still WAY too big for Downy.
    2. Bill was REALLY SMALL for a Hairy even a bit too small for Downy.
    3. Voice sounded most like that of Hairy.
    4. Bird had barred outer tail feathers (typical of Downy).
    5. Bird had possible spur on neck (normally Hairy).
    6. The cheek pattern looks like (but not quite the same as) that of a Hairy.

    Although we cannot rule out the possibility the bird is an abnormal member of one of the species, the mixed pattern of characteristics seems to favor the possibility that the bird is a hybrid. Here is a link to some photos in an ebird checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S26150554

  2. Thanks Jacob and sorry for the slow response. I guess the bill may look smaller than it was in the photo as a result of the head being turned slightly away, but even so...

    May I add your photo to the main thread? Hopefully it will generate some more feedback then, perhaps.