Red-naped Sapsucker

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Common Name: Red-naped Sapsucker

Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Size: 7.5-8.3 inches (19-21 cm)

Habitat: North America; found in the United States west of the Rockies and Mexico. Summers Northwest USA and Canada in deciduous and mixed montane forests, often associated with willows and aspens. Winters in Southwest USA and Mexico in diverse habitats, including orchards and pine-oak woodlands.

Status: Least concern. Global Population: 2,200,000 mature individuals. Historically shot as an orchard pest; protected now. Populations appear stable, but forestry practices may affect abundance in particular areas.

Diet: Sap from trees (preferably willow) and some insects. Forages for insects by gleaning, probing, prying, tapping, and flycatching. Drills series of shallow holes in bark of tree, licks up sap.

Breeding: Nesting occurs in cavity in trees or dead branch. No nest material is added to cavity. Three to seven white eggs.

Cool Facts: The Red-naped Sapsucker is closely related to the Yellow-bellied and Red-breasted sapsuckers. All three were formerly considered races of the yellow-bellied. The red-naped hybridizes where it comes in contact with the other two species, and birds intermediate in plumage are sometimes found.

Sapsuckers do not suck sap, but are specialized for sipping it. Their tongues are shorter than those of other woodpeckers, and do not extend as far out. The tip of the tongue has small hair-like projections on it that help pick up the sap, much like a paintbrush holds paint. Sap wells made by sapsuckers attract other sap feeders, especially hummingbirds. Although the woodpecker may eat some insects that are attracted, others are treated as competitors and are chased away.

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