Christopher Kovacs - Fine Art
June 25, 2024   1:12 pm NL Time

Downy on Birch

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Downy on Birch


Status of Original Painting – Sold at Mi’kmaw Cultural Foundation Charity Auction

All prices are in Canadian dollars

Size: 12 x 20  inches

Medium: Watercolour on 300 lb Arches


“What’s that sound?” asked Lisa and then we looked up and spotted a Downy Woodpecker in a cluster of birch trees. He was drilling away in a characteristic four-tap rhythm. I can say “he” because the male has red markings on the back of his head, which the female lacks. My zoom lens was well suited for capturing him.

Convergent evolution has resulted in two birds that look very similar, the Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) and Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus). Both can be found throughout Newfoundland. This one can be recognized as a Downy Woodpecker because of its shorter length, a bill shorter than the diameter of its head, and white spotting on its outer tail feathers.

We were in Chance Cove at the time, but a louder version of that drumming echoed throughout the house this past spring when one of these woodpeckers decided to mark his territory by using one of the metal chimney caps as an amplifier.

Soon after I began this painting, I thought of calling it “Downy on Birch” for two reasons. First that it’s a Downy Woodpecker on a birch tree, and second that the birch tree has downy fungal growth covering it (the result of being so close to water). And then I realized that the white or hairy birch the woodpecker is perched upon is properly called a Downy Birch (Betula pubescens), and so the title has a triple meaning!

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