Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The clear morning light also brought a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker into unusually vivid view. It mewed loudly from an old pecan tree in a yard, where it was inspecting sapsucker holes that ringed the trunk. It was a brilliantly-colored male, with crimson throat and crown bordered in black, a black and white striped face, black and white barred back, and a broad white stripe down the wing. It worked its way up the trunk, checking out the holes, pausing several times to lift its head and look around, its colors and patterns highlighted against the soft blue sky.

Though I’ve seen dozens, maybe hundreds of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers over the years, an encounter like this never fails to amaze me, that such an elegant bird can live here among us, passing most days for the most part quietly and peacefully unnoticed among the drab gray bare-limbed trees of winter. Despite its often laughed-at name, the sheer beauty of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a sunny morning offers one good, pure, simple reason why a birdwatcher watches birds – even birds you’ve seen countless times before.

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