Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus varius
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (8-9 inches) woodpecker, the male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is most easily identified by its black-and-white barred back, buff breast, and red forehead and throat. Female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are similar to males, but have a white throat. In flight, this species may be separated from other small, dark-headed woodpeckers in its range by its conspicuous white wing patches. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker breeds across south-central Canada and the northeastern United States. Isolated breeding populations exist at higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains as far south as North Carolina. This species migrates south for the winter, when it may be found from the Mid-Atlantic region and the southeast south through the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breed in a number of northern mixed evergreen-deciduous forest types. In winter, this species may be found in a variety of temperate and tropical woodland habitats. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers may eat fruits, berries, and insects at certain times of the year, but this species is best known for its preference for tree sap collected from holes drilled in tree trunks. In appropriate habitat, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers may be observed climbing up tree trunks while foraging (or drilling) for food. Good birdwatchers are quick to notice trees with grids of small holes ringing the trunks, as these are likely sapsucker feeding sites. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common migrant and wintering resident from September through May in forested areas. Uncommon nesting bird, May through July in moist and upper-elevation forests. The male’s throat is red, the female’s white. Young differ from adults in having brown back and breast inside of black.

Specimen Information

This juvenile is on the lower right.
Date:  10/15/1921
Collected By:  Wm Palmer
Locality:  Not recorded
Sex:  Male, Immature
Catalog ID:  236059

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67494 Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16890 Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31302 Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)