A furtive woodpecker mottled with off-white and black; male has a red crown and throat; the female has only a red crown. Both sexes are dull yellowish below. Immature birds are sooty brown. In all plumages, the distinctive mark is a conspicuous white wing stripe, visible both at rest and in flight.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), at least on migration, is the quietest of the woodpeckers; aside from a few squeaks and whines, it is mainly silent. It is also the least conspicuous, hitching around to the opposite side of the tree trunk when approached.
Sapsuckers get their name from the habit of boring holes into the cambium layer or inner bark, letting the sap exude and run down the trunk. The birds wipe up or suck the oozing sap with their brushlike tongues. They return again and again to the same tree and also consume the insects attracted to it.
Length: 8.5 inches
Habitat: Young, open deciduous or mixed forest with clearings; in migration, in parks, yards, gardens.
Range: Alaska and Canada to the mountains of Virginia and California. Winters south to Panama and the West Indies.