The downy woodpecker is an insectivore; primary prey being spiders, bark beetles, ants and larvae. You will see this hunter favoring probing and gleaning over drilling and chiseling.
Downy woodpeckers nest in dead or dying trees, especially those with significant heart rot. Nests can often be found close to the top of a broken off tree but they will also use fence or utility poles; this species prefers deciduous trees for housebuilding. Some pairs will stay together through the year, and the supply of food available seems to be a factor in determining whether mated pairs stay together past the breeding season. Where food is more plentiful it is more likely that pairs will stay together year-round.
Drumming is common among downy woodpeckers however unlike other species the female downy is often the winner in the nest location discussion while the male will do most of the excavating. Downy woodpeckers are unlikely to use nestboxes under any circumstances, but will also not return to a nesting hole in subsequent years.