Downy Woodpecker - zygodactyl feet

While working on a book project I needed a photo that showed the zygodactyl feet of woodpeckers. If you knew what you were looking for, several of my photos showed the four toes of woodpeckers but this photo of the Downy showed the four toes most clearly.

Nikon D4 camera, 500mm f/4 lens + 2x teleconverter
1/3200 sec at f/11, ISO 2500

Most songbirds have three forward-facing toes, and one backward-facing. Woodpeckers have two toes pointed forward, and two toes pointed backward. This toe arrangement helps support the woodpecker as it climbs up and down the bark of a tree. Exceptions to the rule: Black-backed woodpeckers and the American and Eurasian three-toed woodpeckers have only three toes on each foot.

Crop of the first image

David Sparks

I retired in 2005 after 40 years of research and teaching at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (24 years), the University of Pennsylvania (8 years) and the Baylor College of Medicine (8 years). Photography is my retirement hobby.

Nature photography, especially bird photography, combines a number of things that I really enjoy: bird-watching, being outdoors, photography, travel, messing about with computers, and learning new skills and concepts.  I now spend much of my time engaged in these activities.

David Sibley in the preface to The Sibley Guide to Birds wrote "Birds are beautiful, in spectacular as well as subtle ways; their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature."  My goal is to acquire images that capture the beauty and uniqueness of selected species as well as images that highlight the engaging behaviors the birds exhibit.