About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a real bird

I woke up this morning and saw a woodpecker pecking on the trunks of the back pines. Larger than a Downy, perhaps a Hairy, no… oh it’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Now two sapsuckers dancing in the trees!

If you grew up in my generation you may think that Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is just a funny name Yosemite Sam called Bugs Bunny in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. But sapsucker is the real name of a real bird that doesn’t really have a yellow belly or suck sap.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrive back in mid-Michigan in April from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico, West Indies, and Central America.

I’ve seen evidence of their presence before on the trunks of the pine trees. Sapsuckers tap for sap as their main food source. On my trees the sapsucker seems to like to drill patches of several shallow rows across and several shallow rows down. These neatly organized patches of holes well up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). He also eats any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.

These predrilled sweet sap sources benefit hummingbirds, waxwings, and warblers as well when they need a quick, sweet bite while traveling.

hummingbird sipping sap
This morning I watched the two sapsuckers in what looked like playful pre-courtship behavior. One sapsucker chased the other around tree trunks and branches. Then they faced each other with feathers fluffed out, swinging their heads from side to side.

The breeding range of the yellow-bellied sapsucker extends from mid-Michigan up and across the northern United States from east of the Rocky Mountains to Maine and into Canada and Alaska.

Related Articles:
  Sapsucker Overwinters in Michigan http://bit.ly/nnidNh  
  -  Hummingbirds follow the sapsuckers during migration http://bit.ly/oqUDia  
  -  How many woodpeckers are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/obAc2U   
  -  Fall Trees Reveal Their Secrets http://bit.ly/nHeb9z
  -  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: Vampire Bird http://goo.gl/ipdib

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