This little cutie has been a regular visitor to our feeders for several days. She's about half the size of the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers. I know this one is female because there is no red spot on top of her head. The male Downy's have the red spot. Like the other woodpeckers, she flies into the tree near our front porch then scoots backward down the tree until she reaches the height of the feeder. She'll then spring to the outer rim of the feeder and hold on long enough to grasp a seed or nut with her tiny beak. Next, she'll return to the tree and find a higher branch to settle on and eat.
Isn't she a beauty? I think I'll call her Maggie. She just looks like a "Maggie" to me. Don't ask me why. Her white underfeathers look so soft, like cotton, or "down"- maybe that's the reason for their name? I haven't seen a male Downy Woodpecker as of yet.
According to what I've read about them, during winter the male and female Downy Woodpeckers divide up to search for food. Males feed more on small branches and weed stems, and females feed on larger branches and trunks. Males keep females from foraging in the more productive spots. When researchers have removed males from a woodlot, females have responded by feeding along smaller branches. So, it seems she would be better off on her own.
Downy Woodpeckers eat mainly insects, including beetle larvae that live inside wood or tree bark as well as ants and caterpillars. They eat pest insects including corn earworm, tent caterpillars, bark beetles, and apple borers. About a quarter of their diet consists of plant material, particularly berries, acorns, and grains. Downy Woodpeckers are common feeder birds, eating suet and black oil sunflower seeds and occasionally drinking from hummingbird feeders.
Maggie is so sweet. She comes to gather a few little nuts to satisfy her appetite then quietly slips away, into the forest...