Description Mottled with off-white and black. Male has red crown, nape
patch, and throat, throat patch incompletely enclosed by black.
Female has white chin and red throat, lacks red nape patch. Both sexes dull
yellowish below. Immatures dull brown. All plumages have conspicuous white
wing patch, visible both at rest and in flight. Juveniles are mottled brown but have
white wing-stripes like adults.
Habitat Red-naped Sapsuckers are the most common sapsucker in deciduous
and streamside forests, especially in and around aspen, cottonwood, and willow.
They also breed in mixed coniferous forests and will use open- and closed-canopy
forests, burns, and clear-cuts, if there are some remaining standing trees.
Diet Red-naped Sapsuckers are omnivores and feed on sap, insects, and fruits.
During the nesting season they take more insects, and they feed insects to their
Nesting Red-naped sapsuckers form monogamous pairs. They typically nest in
healthy aspen trees or dead conifers. Both members of the pair excavate the nest
cavity. Nest trees are often reused, but a new nest cavity is excavated most years.
The nest is lined with woodchips from the excavation but no other lining. Both
members of the pair incubate the 5 to 6 white eggs for 12 to 13 days. Both feed the
young, which leave the nest after 25 to 29 days and are dependent on the parents
for about 10 days more. Red-naped Sapsuckers typically raise a single brood each
Range Breeds in Rocky Mountains from British Columbia and Alberta south to
east-central California, central Arizona, and southern New Mexico. Winters north to
southern California, central Arizona, and central New Mexico.
One of the most strongly migratory woodpeckers, the Red-naped Sapsucker
travels as far south as central Mexico for the winter.
Voice A soft slurred whee-ur or mew.
Discussion The Red-naped Sapsucker is the common member of the
sapsucker group in the Rocky Mountains. It interbreeds with the Yellow-bellied at
the eastern edge of its breeding range and with the Red-breasted to the West. The
resulting hybrids can be difficult to identify. All three birds were formerly considered
a single species.
Sapsuckers get their name from their foraging strategy, which consists of drilling
neat horizontal rows of holes in tree trunks and then returning to those holes later
to feed on the running sap and the insects attracted to it.
Unlike most woodpeckers, they forage in healthy trees and can actually kill a tree if
they drill too many sap holes around its trunk, although this is quite uncommon.
The persistent and conspicuous calls and drumming of Red-naped Sapsuckers
are commonly heard in early spring.