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Red-Naped Sapsucker Red-Naped Sapsuckers

Sapsuckers get their name from their habit of drilling rolls of holes in tree trunks, and repeatedly coming back to drink the sap.

Identification and Pictures

(Sphyrapicus nuchalis)Red-Naped Sapsuckers

Red-Naped Sapsuckers are woodpeckers about 8 to 9 inches.  The male has red patches on the forehead, and throat.  The back and sides are mostly black with white spots.  Their wings have a prominent white bar.  The belly is yellowish with a black breast patch above.  The head has two white stripes; one goes from above the eye to the back of the neck, and the other from the beak to the neck.  Females have red, and white on throat.  Younger birds are mottled brown.  Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers look similar but do not have the red nape.  The two were considered to be one species but were recently split up.  They are often mistaken for the smaller Downy Woodpeckers.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     Red-Naped Sapsuckers

Sapsucker sounds

The drumming is several rapid thumps followed by several slow thumps.  The sapsucker's call is a soft nasal cheer or mewing. 

Preferred Habitat

In summer they can be found from British Columbia through much of the western U.S.  They migrate south as far as Mexico in the winter.  Sapsuckers likes coniferous, and deciduous woodlands, as well as orchards.  They are found often in willows, aspens, and cottonwood.

Breeding and Nesting

During courting both birds will bob and swing their heads while facing each other.  They will also do gliding displays.  Sapsuckers nest in cavities in trees.  Both birds will excavate the nest, and may reuse an old cavity, but usually make a new one.  They do not line the nest except with wood chips from the excavation.  The female will lay 4 to 6 white eggs which both birds will incubate for around 13 days.  Both birds will care for the young, which will leave the nest in 25 to 29 days.  The parents will feed them for another 10 days.

Red-Naped sapsuckers Interbreed with both Yellow-Bellied and Red-Breasted sapsuckers.  

Food 

Sapsuckers drill orderly rolls of small holes from which they drink the sap.  They also eat insects and fruits.  Their tongue is smaller than most woodpeckers, and has hair like projections on the end which aid in sipping sap.


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