Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker with stout, straight bill. Its long wings extend about halfway to the tip of the stiff, pointed tail at rest.

Often, sapsuckers hold their crown feathers up to form a peak at the back of the head.

Both sexes measure about 7.1 - 8.7 inches in length, with a wingspan of 13.4 - 15.8 inches and weigh about 43 - 55 grams.

Adult males have a red forehead, black and white head and red throat. Back is blackish, with a white rump, and a large white wing patch.

Underparts are yellowish. Wings are black with white spotting. Tail is barred black and white, black on sides. Eyes are black. Bill, legs and feet are blackish.

Females look similar, but have a white throat and paler underparts. Red on crown is less extensive, or even entirely black.

Juveniles have mottled brownish head, breast and upperparts down to back. Mantle, scapulars and back are dark brown with whitish feathers fringes.

Most frequent call is a slurred, nasal, cat-like mewing “me-ah”, falling in pitch. Drumming consist of a rapid series of strikes followed by several spaced-out taps.

Breeding call is a “kwee-urk” which is also a territorial call. “Quirks” is used between mates. “Week, week-wurp-wurp” are exchanged between pairs and/or their juveniles.

Feeds on insects. Most common are beetles, ants, moths and dragonflies. When insects are not abundant, sap is an important food source.

During autumn and winter, it feeds on berries and fruits.

In natural range, it is found in forests, woodlands, groves and orchards.

It breeds in young forests and along streams.

It winters in variety of forests, especially semi-open woods.

Breeds from Central Alaska to Newfoundland, and southwards to S Alberta, N Iowa, Pennsylvania, and southwards in Appalachians to N Carolina.

Winters in south-eastern quarter of the United States, southwards to Panama and West Indies.

The male chooses the nest tree most of the time. He does most of the work excavating the cavity over about 2 - 3 weeks. No lining is placed within the nest. Its entrance hole is small, only about 1.5 inches in diameter, but the cavity itself may be 10 inches deep.

The female lays 4 - 7 white eggs. The eggs are laid on wood chips left over from the excavation. Incubation lasts about 12 - 13 days, by both parents. The male spends more time on the eggs, especially at night.


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