The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest and most common woodpecker in North America. They are very common on the south coast.
The Downy Woodpecker is very small, only up to 15 cm long, and has black and white plumage. It has a very short pointed bill set on a mostly black head with a white band above and below the eyes. It has a black nape and rump but has a white back and undersides. Its black wings have white spots and its black tail also has white outer feathers that are barred with black. The male downy woodpecker is easily distinguished from the female because of the bright red spot found at the rear of its head.
They excavate their own cavities in trees. They are not picky as to what type of tree they use except that the trees are usually partially decayed.
They also do not really mind the location of the tree and are known to excavate trees found in forests, orchards, farms, country homes, towns, and even cities. When excavating holes downy woodpeckers usually start several holes before they make the final choice. The entrance hole is usually found 3.6 m to 9 m above ground. The resulting hole is flask-shaped starting with a narrow entrance hole and short narrow neck at the top widening to around 12 to 15 cm wide at the bottom. The hole is about 20 to 30 cm deep. The male does most of the drilling until it is near completion wherein the female joins in.
The Downy Woodpecker will often return to the same nesting site every year. They declare their occupation of the nesting site by patrolling the area drumming with their bills on trees in the territory. During their free time, the pair likes to engage in courtship by calling, drumming, and engaging in the pursuit of each other and other displays.
Downy woodpeckers like to feed on insects and larvae found on infested trees. They also eat berries and seeds and feed on suet in winter. In winter downy woodpeckers do not cache food and instead will spend most of their daylight hours drilling holes in trees to get at the insects that are wintering there.