Species Profile: Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus thyroideus

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

Introduction to the species

“This interesting species is so unique in the entire difference of coloration of the sexes, that for a long time they were considered and described as separate species. It remained for Mr. H. W. Henshaw, then attached as Naturalist to Lieut. George M. Wheeler’s expedition, engaged upon the geographical exploration of Colorado and New Mexico, in 1873, to establish their identity, he finding the supposed two species paired and breeding near Fort Garland, Col., in June of that year.-
-E. Bendire 1888

Breeding across montane forests of western North America, Williamson’s Sapsucker is among the most sexually dichromatic woodpeckers in the world. It is also the most conifer-dependent of the sapsuckers, feeding primarily among mixed coniferous forests throughout its range. It will also nest in conifers, but it prefers to excavate nest cavities in mature aspens softened by heart-rot fungi or in aspen snags. Outside the breeding season, Williamson’s can be found tapping juniper, pine, or exotic conifers and sometimes feeding at high elevations among the twisted pines at timberline.

Video of a Williamson’s Sapsucker


Gallery of photos of the Williamson’s Sapsucker by Steve Shunk

Return to List of Species of North American Woodpeckers page.

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