Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Species Profile: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus thyroideus

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

Introduction to the species

The work of the Woodpeckers seemed to me, armed as I was with an excellent opera glass, and sitting not more than thirty feet from the drills (sap wells), to be perfectly plain in character. …The sap glistened on the bill as it was withdrawn. I could sometimes see the tongue move. The bill was directed towards the lower, inner part of the drill, which, as I found by examination, was cut so as to hold the sap.-
-Bolles 1891

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker heads one of the most closely knit woodpecker taxa on the planet—the varius superspecies, comprising the Yellow-bellied (S. varius), Red-naped (S. nuchalis), and Red-breasted (S. ruber) Sapsuckers. Modern ornithology still struggles to define this triad, which has undergone numerous “splits” and “lumps” in the last 150 years. Recent genetic research has helped clarify relationships within the varius superspecies, but birders will face the challenges of hybridization and field identification of mixed-parent progeny for centuries to come.

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

Return to List of Species of North American Woodpeckers page.

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