Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Whether it be on an outdoor adventure or simply in your backyard, you may have spotted a tree with rows of holes in the bark and wondered to yourself, “What sort of creature made these?” 
A dying Birch tree with rows of sapwells (photo: The Wikipedia files)
I recently came upon one such tree and was struck with a great curiosity to learn more. As you can see in the photograph, there are many rows of holes.
A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo: The Wikipedia files)
The creature who made the holes is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  It is mostly black and white with a red and black face.  The black head feather parts curve down from the bill and eyes to the back of the head and breast shield.  Males have a red throat whereas females’ throats are more of a buff brown.  Keep an eye open for that thick white wing bar as well.
A female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo: The Wikipedia files)

This woodpecker, as its name suggests, drills what are called sapwells into a tree’s bark and laps at the sap and any unlucky insects hidden within the tree.  The brush-like tongue allows for easy access to those yummy treats.  Although they prefer Maples and Birches, this bird will feed from many tree species with sap that has high sugar content. 

Not only do Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers eat sap and insects from beneath the tree bark, they have also been known to eat fruit.  And, don’t forget to keep an eye on those suet feeders as they will occasionally take an easy snack found in your neighborhood.

Don’t be surprised if you have some other visitors to a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sapwell.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird will delight in a sap stop as will many other birds.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to keep an eye out for these interesting birds.  You never know what birds you may see when walking our trails or sitting on the benches surrounding our bird feeding stations.

Submitted by Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Grants Farm Show Trainer


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