Description of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

BREEDING MALE

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a boldly patterned woodpecker with black and white barring on the back, a wide white stripe on each black wing, a red forehead, and black and white stripes on the head.

Males have a red throat completely bordered by black.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Female

Females like males but have a white throat.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers lack red on the head or throat and are mostly brownish above and below, though they still have a heavily barred appearance.

Yellow-breastd Sapsucker

Habitat

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are found in a variety of woods containing deciduous or mixed coniferous-deciduous trees.

Diet

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers eat insects, fruits, and tree sap, the latter being the source of the species’ unusual name.

Behavior

Sap is obtained by drilling rows of small holes in tree bark and returning later to feed on the oozing sap.

Range

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers nest across much of southern Canada and the northeastern U.S., and winter in the southeastern U.S. and Mexico. The population may be stable, though it is not well monitored.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers teach their young the sap drilling technique soon after fledging.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is strongly migratory, with little overlap between summer and winter ranges.

Other species, including hummingbirds and warblers, will come to sapsucker holes for food.

Vocalizations

The most common call is a squealing, plaintive "meew".

Nesting

The nest is an excavated cavity in a deciduous tree.

Number: Usually lay 5-6 eggs.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12-13 days, and leave the nest in another 25-29 days, though they continue to associate with the adults for some time.