Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus various Atlanta, GA - Peachtree Park - April, 2013

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  – April, 2013

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a mid-sized woodpecker.   They drum and give a cat-like call in spring to declare ownership of territory. [1]

We only see this bird when he comes south for the winter.  These birds migrate to the southeastern United States, West Indies and Central America, leaving their summer range.  It’s the only woodpecker in North America that’s completely migratory. [2]

The breeding habitat of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is forested areas across Canada, eastern Alaska and the northeastern United States. They prefer young, mainly deciduous forests. [1]

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius Jekyll Island, GA - January 12, 2016

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – January, 2016

Like other sapsuckers, these birds drill holes in trees and eat the sap and insects drawn to it. They may also pick insects from tree trunks or catch them in flight. They also eat fruit and berries. [1]  When you see a tree in Georgia with rows of shallow holes, it’s the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. [2]

Sapsucker feeding can kill a tree by girdling, which occurs when a ring of bark around the trunk is severely injured. Certain tree species are particularly susceptible to dying after being damaged by yellow-bellied sapsuckers.[1]

The sap holes made by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers attract hummingbirds, which also feed off the sap flowing from the tree. [2]

In the video below, the sapsucker was drilling into a river birch.  Watch closely and you will see sap ooze from the hole.

References and Additional Information

[1] Wikipedia: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
[2] Cornell – All About Birds: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker