Q Because their plumage is almost identical, how can you distinguish between a downy and a hairy woodpecker? I know that the hairy is larger, but it's hard to determine relative size from a distance.

A Look at the bill. The bill on a hairy is about as long as its head is deep. A downy, on the other hand, has a much shorter bill, about half as long as its head is deep. Remember it this way: The downy is dainty, the hairy is hefty.

Jim Williams, a life-long birder, can be reached by email at two-jays@att.net. Val Cunningham, a St. Paul-based nature writer, can be reached at valwrites@comcast.net.