Q. The feathers of my Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers that are typically white look brownish and stained and kind of roughed up. What's happening to them?
A. At this time of year (late April through June), both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are busy raising families inside a tree cavity. While excavating the cavity, laying and incubating the eggs. and then feeding the nestlings, these hard-working woodpecker parents are in and out of the cavity hundreds of times for more than a month. This inevitably takes a toll on their feathers.
The feathers that are typically white may get stained by tannins in the tree. Their feathers will also get worn from friction against the tree. But don't worry, all their feathers will be replaced during a complete molt after all the hard work of breeding is complete.
The good news for you is that when you see this, there's a chance of seeing young woodpeckers in your yard!