Sapsucker ID Challenge

One of the earliest posts to the journal involved the discussion of sapsucker ID. "Don't Be Suckered by Sapsuckers" was published on 23 December 2008. That piece includes several pointers that might help you this time around. Formerly, three of the four species Sphyrapicus sapsuckers--Yellow-bellied, Red-naped, and Red-breasted--were treated as a single species (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker). Hybridization, molt, and feather wear results in many sapsuckers that don't seem to match up with the illustrations in your favorite field guide. Of course it would be impossible for a field guide to illustrate every potential intergrade that might result from the crossing and back-crossing that occurs in the sizeable overlap in the ranges of Red-breasted and Red-naped sapsuckers. However, even presumed "pure" birds can leave you scratching your head if your sole source of information is one of the popular field guides.

Below, you will find three pictures of just such a sapsucker. This bird exhibits multiple field marks that might be considered ambiguous. However, if one examines these images closely, this bird can be identified and even sexed based on what can be seen in these three pictures. We will open up the debate on this bird for a couple days before posting a thorough discussion about its plumage. To avoid providing any clues to identity of this bird, we will not share where this series of photos was taken. We encourage your comments on this bird. When offering your thoughts (via our "comments" box) please reference the images numbers that are found in the captions.


Image #1


Image #2


Image #3


I would also point folks to:


Rather than give away the answer, I will provide the hint that once you determine the sex of this bird the choice is obvious. How do you determine the sex? Another hint (actually two): chin and throat.


I think it is a female red-naped sapsucker with tinge of red on back of head and a bit of white under the beak/chin area.


No question this is the place to get this info, tahnks y’all.


Do you ever make it out to Eastern MA? I ask because I lead a Woodpecker Walk for the BBC and I’ve alywas managed to get a Pileated WP or two if you’re interested in coming along.@vrajesh Thanks for letting me know about your post. I’ve added it to the list this week. Nice video!


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