There are six types of woodpeckers common to the Kootenay region. They are the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, and the northern flicker.
Downey Woodpecker (Picoides Pubescens)
A white back generally identifies both this woodpecker and the similar hairy woodpecker. The downey woodpecker is smaller, with a much smaller bill; outer feathers generally have faint bars or spots. Birds in the Pacific Northwest have pale gray-brown back and underparts. Rocky mountain birds show less spotting on their wings. The females may be confused with the female three-toed woodpecker; note the downey’s conspicuous eyebrow and lack of barring on the sides. Calls include a soft pik note and a high whinny. They are quite common and often seen in backyard feeders, in parklands and orchards, as well as in forests.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides Villosus)
A white back generally identifies both this woodpecker and the similar downy woodpecker. The hairy woodpecker is larger, with a much larger bill; outer tail feathers are entirely white. Birds in the Pacific Northwest have pale gray-brown back and underparts. Rocky mountain birds have less spotting on their wings. The females are easily confused with the female three-toed woodpecker, but note the conspicuous eyebrow and lack of barring on back and flanks, but sides are not barred. Its forehead is spotted with white; its crown is streaked with red or orange in young males. Its calls include a loud, sharp peek and slurred whinny. They inhabit dense mature forests and may move to open woods in the winter.
Three-Toed Woodpecker (Picoides Tridactylus)
Black-and-white barring down the centre of the back distinguishes the three-toed woodpecker from the similar black-backed woodpecker. Both have heavily barred sides. The male’s yellow cap is more extensive in the three-toed. Barring on the back varies from heavy and dense in the eastern form (picoides tridactylus bacatus), to lighter in the northwestern (picoides tridactylus fasciatus). In the rocky mountain subspecies (picoides tridactylus dorsalis), their back may be mostly white rather than barred. Females resemble female hairy or downey woodpeckers; look for heavily barred sides. Its call is a single pik. Three-toed woodpeckers are found in coniferous forests, especially in burned-over areas.
Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides Arcticus)
They have solid black back, heavily barred sides. Males have distinct yellow cap. Similar to the three-toed woodpecker, it has a barred back. The black-backed woodpecker inhabits coniferous forests and is often found in burned-over areas. They forage on dead conifers, flaking away large patches of loose bark rather than drilling into it, in search of larvae and insects. Its call note is a single, sharp kik. They are uncommon. In winter, it withdraws from the highest altitudes in northernmost part of range and may visit wooded valleys.
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus Pileatus)
A perched bird is almost entirely black on its back and wings. Pileated is the largest woodpecker commonly seen. The female’s red cap is less extensive than in the male. Juvenile plumage, held briefly, resembles the adult but is paler overall. Call is a loud, rising and falling wuck-a-wuck-a-wuck-a, similar to the flicker. They are generally uncommon and localized throughout much of its range. It prefers dense, mature forests but also seems to be adapting to human encroachment, becoming more common and more tolerant of disturbed habitats, especially in the east, found in woodlots and parklands, as well as deep woods. Listen for its slow, resounding hammering; look for the long rectangular or oval holes it excavates. Carpenter ants in fallen trees and stumps are its major food source.
Northern Flicker (Colaptes Auratus)
It has a brown barred back with spotted underparts and black crescent bib. Its white rump is conspicuous in flight and it lacks white wing patches. Females lack red or black whisker stripe. All three forms—yellow-shafted, red-shafted, and gilded flicker—are regularly seen in the Midwest and southwest. Large, active, and noisy, flickers are common in open woodlands and suburban areas, often feeding on the ground. Calls include a rapid wik-wik-wik-wik and wick-er, wick-er, wick-er, and a single, loud klee-yer.