Nov 30 2009

The Bird with the Imaginary Name

Published by at 7:04 am under Songbirds

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo by Chuck Tague)My husband and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family in southeastern Virginia.  Needless to say, I went birding several times while there and every time I did I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker

When I told my husband this was the Best Bird on my outings he remarked that it has the sort of name you’d invent for fiction.  Imagine a British comedy in which a bird watcher (a.k.a. “twitcher”) arrives for tea and discusses the bird he’d like to see on his trip to America.  “Yellow-bellied sapsucker,” he says.  Right.  Everyone laughs.

Weird as it seems this woodpecker is well named.  Mostly black, white and red he has a yellow wash on his belly and he eats sap.

Sapsuckers drill horizontal rows of small holes in tree bark, then return to sip the sap that wells up in them.  On my walks in Virginia they chose southern pines for this meal.  In Pittsburgh they seem to prefer maples.

Sap sipping alone would not have won my Best Bird award last weekend.  What impressed me was the cavalier way in which one of them ate poison ivy berries, tossing them in the air and catching them in his beak. 

Pretty cool bird … or was he imaginary?

(photo by Chuck Tague)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “The Bird with the Imaginary Name”

  1. CHWon 30 Nov 2009 at 9:02 am

    Today I noticed that Kim Steininger has some great pictures of the Pefa’s in NJ..actually nesting on a cliff. BTW how are Dorothy and E2?

  2. Kate St. Johnon 30 Nov 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Kim’s photos are always excellent.
    Dorothy and E2 are fine, just hanging out. Haven’t seen them today yet … but that doesn’t mean anything on a gray November day.

  3. Marjorie VanTasselon 30 Nov 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Last winter we had one regularly on one of my maples. It looked so fluffed up at first we thought there were 2 (one on top of the other). I purchased a hard, wrought-iron type “leafy” feeder with spike for a large log-type suet cake and hung that on the front porch. My son and I had great times watching the YB Sapsucker.

  4. Bird Shopperon 03 Dec 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Exciting! There is such a variety of suet feeders on the market, or you can make your own. Those woodpeckers sure are entertaining.

  5. Bethon 05 Dec 2009 at 10:08 am

    I live in the Nashville, TN suburbs now and we always have one that winters with us. You can see the neat, equal-sized rows of holes on our Bradford Pear tree. I see it sometimes in our backyard too…

  6. Veronica Snyderon 04 Jan 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Interesting! I’ve seen the horizonal rows of holes in trees in the woods nearby, but have never seen a yellow-bellied sapsucker in person. Our feeders are frequented by downy, hairy, and red-breasted woodpeckers, and I’ve seen flickers and pileated woodpeckers. My first sighting of a pileated was just this past summer, actually, when one decided that our yard and neighboring woods was a good place to frequent!

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