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Merlin Bird ID

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    Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

    Silhouette WoodpeckersWoodpeckers

    Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

    Sphyrapicus varius
    • ORDER: Piciformes
    • FAMILY: Picidae
    Basic Description

    On a walk through the forest you might spot rows of shallow holes in tree bark. In the East, this is the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, an enterprising woodpecker that laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. Attired sharply in barred black-and-white, with a red cap and (in males) throat, they sit still on tree trunks for long intervals while feeding. To find one, listen for their loud mewing calls or stuttered drumming.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Yellow-bellied SapsuckerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Look for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in young deciduous forests. To find a sapsucker’s territory, keep an eye out for their distinctive, neatly organized rows of sapwells. You’ll mostly likely find them tending to their sapwells, but you might also see them perched at the tips of tree branches when hunting for insects. In spring, listen for their mewing calls and their distinctive irregular drumming. They cling motionless to trees while calling, so if you hear a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, look closely at the trees around you for their sharply contrasting black-and-white face stripes and the bright-red patches on their heads.

    Other Names
    • Carpintero Moteado (Spanish)
    • Pic maculé (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t regular bird feeder visitors, although they may visit suet feeders. And if you have young birch or maple trees in your yard and you live in the sapsucker’s range, you just might get to see one drilling its sapwells firsthand. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

    • Cool Facts