SE Colorado Birding

Birding and discussion: A conservation-oriented birding blog that emphasizes low-impact birding and sustainable birding practices together with the enjoyment of birds. Southeast Colorado offers a diversity of habitats which provide premiere birding opportunities. Save Sabal Palm

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Red-naped & Yellow-bellied Sapsucker very close-ups

I cropped both one of my photos of the female Red-naped Sapsucker posted yesterday and the photo taken by Dave Leatherman of a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker to really compare the details of their facial features. Actually some of the back plumage can also be compared in these two photos.

The Yellow-bellied is in the lower pic and the Red-naped (by the way, I was only about 15 feet away from the bird when I took this photo which may account for its better clarity in this enlargement) in the top. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has a totally white chin and throat (though a some birds can have a few red feathers or a reddish wash), and lacks red on her nape area (there are white feathers on her nape where there was a red patch on the Red-naped Sapsucker). It also has some brownish feathers in the white stripe across its face. The back has two longitudinal stripes of white feathers separated by a black striped down the middle ; however, the feathers in the white stripes are intersperced with black lines giving the appearance of a ladder which is distinctly different in these pics (and in my experience) from the back of Red-naped Sapsuckers. Both this species and the Red-naped have white patches on their wings and black breast patches.

Some field guides claim that Yellow-bellied have more diffuse white on their backs, but that is not my experience. I guess there is a possibility that many of the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers found in Colorado are products of hybridization with Red-naped; however, I believe I have read about a Yellow-bellied seen in the Eastern U.S. that also had the more defined longitudinal white stripes down its back.

The Red-naped has more extensive red on crown but I believe this is just a matter of individual variation and not a species difference. Also, the Yellow-bellied has its crown feathers raised while the Red-naped does not--this is not a difference between species and I believe that the Yellow-bellied can likely raise her crown feathers also.


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