Sapsuckers show up in area in winter

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is a juvenile male yellow-bellied sapsucker on a pecan tree. A male yellow-bellied sapsucker will have two patches of red feathers. One patch runs across the top of the bird's head. The other is on the front of its neck.

A female yellow-bellied sapsucker will have red across the top of her head like the male, but the feathers on the front of her neck are white.

This little woodpecker will only weigh about 2 ounces as an adult.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are migratory birds and show up in Southeast Missouri during winter. Their summer breeding range is in the wooded areas across Canada, eastern Alaska and northeastern U.S.

As their name implies, these little birds "drink" sap oozing from holes they have pecked into the trunks of trees with relatively thin bark. The best way to identify that a yellow-bellied sapsucker has been in an area is to look for "nail holes" circling the upper trunk of a medium-sized tree. In Southeast Missouri, tree types most likely to exhibit "nail hole" rings include birch and tulip tree.

If you find a living tree with sap coming from these holes, it is likely an active yellow-bellied sapsucker feeding site. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers normally visit their feeding sites every day and sometimes will visit a favorite tree several times during a day. That is the place you are most likely to encounter a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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