Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

While exploring the Carleton College Arboretum on Sunday, Erika and I encountered a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  The young birds do not completely molt out of this brown plumage until their first spring.  Curiously, I have never banded a juvenile sapsucker.

Due to their sap-sucking habits, sapsuckers depend an flowing sap.  They are, therefore, our most migratory woodpecker.  Sapsuckers breed across Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States.  They winter in the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies.  (Individuals breed as far south as southeastern Minnesota and will occasionally attempt to winter here.)  Females winter further south than do males (most birds in Central America are females, most in central regions of the United States are males). 

Males do the lion's share of breeding duties.  They stake breeding territories, pick and do most of the excavation of the nests, share egg incubation, and provide all the nighttime care of the young.  The males also do most of the nest cleaning and feeding of the young.  If one parent dies, young are most likely to survive if they are raised by the male (Smithsonian National Zoological Park).


  1. Glad that you didn't wash away in the flood! Can you specify the location in the arb that you saw this bird?

  2. The sapsucker was in the pines at the far northeast end of the Arboretum, near where the Black-backed Woodpecker was seen several years ago. The location is in Dakota Co.