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Number of species: 79

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Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens

Downy Woodpecker undergoes an incomplete preformative molt and incomplete to complete prebasic molts, but has no prealternate molts. The resulting molt limits permit many individuals to be aged to at least TCB (TY). Downy Woodpeckers are generally easy to sex throughout the year.

Quick tips

  • Check the head for red feathers - only FCJ (juveniles) have any on top of the crown (extensive in males, limited to absent in females); otherwise only males have a small spot on the hindcrown.
  • Carefully examine the primary coverts, with a focus on retained brownish juvenile feathers. They are uniformly paler than adjacent tracts on FCF (HY/SY) birds until their second fall, then on SCB (SY/TY) birds the outermost primary coverts are contrastingly black until the following fall, after which they usually are uniformly black or a mix of black and blackish, indicating DCB (ASY/ATY).
  • In summer to early fall, check p10 - in FCJ (juvenile) birds it is rounded and extends >7 mm beyond the primary coverts; on all older birds it is more narrow and pointed and extends 6 mm or less beyond the primary coverts.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2018). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: May - September)
Crown mottled with little to no (F) or moderate to substantial (M) red patch; p10 rounded and at least 7 mm longer than the primary coverts; iris grayish-brown
No images available yet
FCF - (HY/SY: June - following September)
Primary coverts uniformly paler than greater coverts and primaries, becoming distinctly brown over time; p10 pointed and at most 6 mm longer than the primary coverts; iris brownish; hind crown with (M) or without (F) red patch
M
Thumbnail - IS2-2771-03425-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4555.jpg
F
Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04121-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4631.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04122-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4627.jpg Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04122-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4628.jpg Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04122-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4629.jpg
U
Thumbnail - MH3-NA_547-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-1082.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-NA_547-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-1083.jpg

Thumbnail - MH3-NA_391-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-864.jpg
SCB - (SY/TY: June - following September)
Brown inner primary coverts contrasting with black outer primary coverts, greater coverts, and primaries; p10 pointed and at most 6 mm longer than the primary coverts; iris brownish to reddish; hind crown with (M) or without (F) red patch
F
Thumbnail - MH3-NA_469-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-972.jpg
DCB - (ASY/ATY: June - following September)
Primary coverts uniformly black or with mixed generations (possibly recognizable as TCB - TY/4Y if any retained inner primary coverts are particularly pale and worn); p10 pointed and at most 6 mm longer than the primary coverts; iris dark red; hind crown with (M) or without (F) red patch
M
Thumbnail - MR3-2551-78380-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-2045.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2551-78380-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-2043.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2551-78380-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-2044.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2551-78380-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-2046.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-2741-16910-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4535.jpg Thumbnail - IS2-2741-16910-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4536.jpg
F
Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04179-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4711.jpg Thumbnail - IS2-2661-04179-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4712.jpg

Thumbnail - MH3-NA_468-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-971.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: May - September)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: June - October)
Primaries, rectrices, and some inner secondaries and inner greater coverts being replaced
M
Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1587-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4299.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1587-Picoides_pubescens_AOU_7_52-4298.jpg
SPB - (SY: June - October)
Primaries, rectrices, most to all secondaries, and up to five outer primary coverts being replaced
No images available yet
TPB
Description to be developed.
No images available yet
DPB - (ASY: June - October)
Primaries, rectrices, most to all secondaries, and various primary coverts (often not contiguous) being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U June - October Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY January - December In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-SPB / UPU (SPB, DPB) AHY June - October Undergoing prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-SCB / UCU (SCB, DCB) AHY/ASY January - December Mostly to entirely in basic plumage (molt completed), but cannot be reliably distinguished between second and subsequent cycles

Number of species: 79

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