The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a member in good standing of the woodpecker family. As the name implies, the yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeds on the sugary sweet sap of trees like maple and birch.
Much like a maple sugar farmer harvests maple syrup, the yellow-bellied sapsucker uses its chisel like beak to drill a series of holes in the bark of trees and then lick up the sap with a brush like tongue.
Sap is a mainstay in the yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s diet but it will also eat insects (including ants dipped in sap), spiders and others bugs found hiding in the tree bark.
Many other insects and birds, including the hummingbird, benefit from the sap in the exposed holes made by this woodpecker.
Although quite colorful, this red, black, yellow and cream colored bird effectively blends into the tree trunks on which it lives.
Males have a red throat. Females white. Both sexes have the bright red cap.
The woodpecker’s strong tail feathers and four toes (unlike perching birds that have three) assist in moving the bird vertically up the tree as it clings to the trunk. The talons are likened to a hawk’s - the better to cling to the nooks and crannies of tree trunks.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker breeds from the Great Lakes through Northern Canada. Migration to Central and South America, as well as the South Eastern US, begins in September.
By December, a rare few will find the sugar maple tree in Telephoto Florida’s backyard and use it to refuel. It is truly a gift to have, for a couple of weeks each year, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, at tripod level, enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner, on the back yard maple tree.
Photographing these annual visitors is a wonderful experience. When approached, they would not immediately fly off like many birds, but rather they would hitch around the tree trunk to hide.
Once comfortable with my camera’s presence, they proved to be quite the accommodating models.
To see additional yellow-bellied sap-sucker photos please visit The Aviary at Telephoto Florida.