Red-breasted Sapsucker

Species Profile: Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus ruber

Learn more about this species in the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America.

Introduction to the species

“It is all very well for the economic ornithologist to tell us that Sapsuckers are somewhat injurious to orchard trees, but the sight of one of these splendid creatures, dropping with a low cry to the base of a tree and hitching coquettishly up its length, is enough to disarm all resentment. From what spilled chalice of old burgundy has the bird been sipping? Or from what baptism of blood has he lately escaped that he should be died red for half his length? Recrudescent mythology, ill at ease in these commercial times, nevertheless casts furtive glances at him, and longs to account in its inimitable way for the telltale color. …”
-W. L. Dawson 1923

Like a warning beacon in our far western forests, the Red-breasted Sapsucker glows brightly under the coniferous canopies of the Pacific states and provinces. With the most limited range of our four sapsucker species, the Red-breasted can be a prize find, especially for birders from eastern North America. While it may often be found nesting or feeding among aspen galleries, this woodpecker can also be found etching its rectangular phloem wells into the bark of small-diameter willows and alders. Its nesting sites may also be rather diverse, opportunistically excavated in any tree species that is locally available.

Gallery of photos of the Red-breasted Sapsucker by Steve Shunk

Return to List of Species of North American Woodpeckers page.

© 2016 Woodpecker Wonderland. Site by Christine Elder Illustration & Design