Downy Woodpecker
(Dryobates pubescens)


Picture of bird
© Andrew A Reding - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Downy Woodpecker is a common inhabitant of wooded areas in Canada. The Breeding Bird Survey suggests there has been little overall change in the population since about 1970. Currently, there appear to be few threats to this common and adaptable species.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000,000 - 5,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early May and mid-May and ends in mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

There are few conservation concerns for this widespread and adaptable species. Because the Downy Woodpecker prefers open stand habitat, management that thins forest habitats can be beneficial (Jackson and Ouellet 2002). However, other practices such as extensive clearing or intensive, even-aged, forest monoculture have a negative impact on populations because the earliest successional stages do not provide nesting habitat (Conner et al. 1975 in Jackson and Ouellet 2002). Populations were at a high during the 1950s and 1960s when insect food sources were high as a result of peak tree mortality due to diseases such as Dutch Elm disease (Jackson and Ouellet 2002).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type