Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

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A male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.
A male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.


Every spring, often in the early morning hours, a male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker drums on the metal roof of a cabin just outside our bedroom window. According to allaboutbirds.org, most non-birders believe that the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a fictitious bird created just for the humorous name. It is in fact a widespread species of small woodpecker. Its habit of making shallow holes in trees to get sap is exploited by other bird species, and the sapsucker can be considered a "keystone" species, one whose existence is vital for the maintenance of a community.


Interesting Facts About Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

  • The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker frequently uses human-produced materials to help in its territorial drumming. Street signs and metal chimney flashing, and metal roofing amplify the irregular tapping of a territorial sapsucker. The sapsucker seems to suffer no ill effects of whacking its bill on metal, and a bird will return to a favorite object day after day to pound out its Morse code-like message.
  • The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.


The above facts are thanks to allaboutbirds.org