Identification: A medium-sized woodpecker, white strip running up its side and "messy" black and white barring on its back. The throat and crown are completely red on a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker while the female throat is white. Both have a pale yellow underside. (These are not very good ID photos. Cornell Labs has much better.)
Range: The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Females tend to migrate farther south than males, often traveling as far south as Panama. Here in the Ozarks, we are in the bird's winter range.
Food: A sapsucker eats fruit and forages in tree bark for insects, but is most noted for consuming tree sap. It bores distinctive rows of holes in tree trunks and limbs. From these holes, it laps (not sucks) sap with its brush-like tongue. In the summer, a sapsucker feeds on the “phloem” sap, the sticky fluid that carries the nutrients produced in the leaves downward to other parts of the tree. This sap is much thicker and contains more nutrients than the “xylem” sap tapped by humans in the spring for making syrup. Researchers speculate that a sapsucker's saliva contains some kind of anticoagulant that inhibits the tree from sealing over the holes and stopping the sap flow. A sapsucker will often choose to tap a wounded or weakened tree. The sap of these trees may contain more amino acids and proteins. Many other birds and other critters partake of the sap flows created by sapsuckers. (The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has much more information on Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.)
|Photo by Cephas via Wikipedia.|
The White Birch above shows the distinctive rows of holes bored by a sapsucker.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers overwintering here readily eat from our suet feeder.
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