14 Mar 2011
(E-mails from Colby Neuman, 14 Mar 2011)
... My parents neighbor photographed this
Downy Woodpecker that's presumably the same bird my dad observed the week
prior. It seems like it may very well be a 'Pacific' race of the Downy
Woodpecker, but I'm not sure whether or not it could also just be a
I'm hoping to hear others' thoughts.
(E-mails from Ryan O'Donnell, 15 Mar 2011)
Colby and all:
The only trait that I know to distinguish Pacific Downy Woodpeckers from
our local (leucurus) Downies is the color of the white on the breast -
pure white in our birds, dingy grayish in Pacific birds. Based on this
trait alone, I don't think a determination can be made with the
photographs that are available. It looks to me like the whole tone of
those photographs is "buffy", with the color balance shifted towards
yellow and with the foreground underexposed because of metering including
the bright sky behind the bird. I tried looking around at some photos on
Flickr to look for other distinguishing traits. Although there is some
overlap, it seems that Pacific birds often have less white in the greater
coverts than your bird, and sometimes have no white at all there. Your
bird seems to be in line with leucurus in this respect (although also in
line with the whitest of the Pacific [gairdnerii] Downies). I didn't
notice any other consistent plumage differences, but it seems likely that
there would be some that I didn't notice.
I think it would be possible to get a Pacific Downy Woodpecker here.
Browning (1995) mentions several observations of long-distance movements
(vagrancy) by Downy Woodpeckers, although his most vagrant gairdnerii is
from the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. Vagrants are also strongly
sex-biased, with females moving much more than males, so that is a very
small point in favor of your bird being a vagrant.
In summary, I think your bird COULD be a Pacific but I'd need to see
better photos or to see it in life to be confident. Is there any chance
the bird is still around? Where was it seen?
Thanks for sharing that interesting bird.
Downy Woodpeckers Migrate?"
...Ryan P. O'Donnell
by "a neighbor"