Monday, December 16, 2013

Female sapsucker--focus on her upperparts

The pattern of barring on the upperparts of sapsuckers is also important in distinguishing Red-naped from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. As noted by the Project Sapsucker work from the Migration Research Foundation-McGill Bird Observatory Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers tend to have black and buffy/yellowish/whitish 'peppered'or mottled across their backs while Red-napes have the white in two fairly distinct and narrow rows down their backs. I wish I had a photo that showed the back without the bird having it's head turned to the side as this distorts the top of the back somewhat.  (I try not to flush these sensitive birds from their chosen trees and with the weather brutally cold when I saw this one I was especially cautious)  However, the white on the back of this sapsucker seems to start off in two distinct narrow rows with some black in the middle but becomes more diffuse or 'peppered' across the back. Here is the the chart for rating this from the Migration Research Foundation:
Again I would rate this bird's back as in the middle of the chart as 'two broad white lines' that are more separated at the top then come together. Another characteristic that the Project Sapsucker folks don't use (also not mentioned in Birds of North America online) is the buffy/yellowish tinge 'most often' found on the barring on the backs of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers that is found less often/less obviously (though there is an overlap) on Red-naped.   On one of my photos of this bird there was a buffy tinge showing and I also saw it through my binoculars--I think it is one of those problems with lighting and photos but it was a light tinge. 

Next I will post about the facial markings. SeEtta