Sapsuckers

Sapsuckers (genus Sphyrapicus) belong to North American woodpeckers family. They are easily recognized by their loud, high-pitched clicking calls. Most species drum, others just double-rap. They build their nests in excavated tree holes. Sapsuckers feed on insects, spiders, berries, fruits, acorns, seeds, sap and honey. Lines of parallel, freshly drilled "sap-wells" in tree bark are a sure sign that sapsuckers are nearby.

Sapsuckers do not actually suck sap, they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush. Sapsuckers are often referred as keystone species because of their importance in the wildlife community. In fact, other species such as hummingbirds, kinglets and warblers feed from the wells made by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, especially in winters when insects, fruits and nectar are not readily available.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized, black-and-white woodpecker with a red crown on both sexes and a red chin on the male. The belly may have some yellow, but this varies greatly between birds. Two other closely related sapsuckers are differentiated by the pattern of their red adornment: the Red-naped Sapsucker has a red patch at the back of the neck, and the Red-breasted has a red head and red breast.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a tree

Bird photography by Larysa Johnston





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