Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Work

I hadn’t seen or heard one for a while and thought they might be gone for the season, but this morning a vividly-colored Yellow-bellied Sapsucker spent more than an hour working on the lichen-covered trunk and large branches of a pecan tree in the front yard. Its throat and crown looked like shimmering silk, intensely red. Its back blended into the rough gray, black and brown bark of the tree. Its belly glowed a warm yellow-tan, streaked with charcoal.

The morning was very cool, with a soft blue sky and sunlight often muffled by low white clouds. For a long time, the Sapsucker moved methodically up one large fork of the tree, tapping for several minutes at one spot, then moving on to another. Finally, it rested. It stopped and clung to the side of the trunk for several minutes, then lifted its head, turned it to one side and inserted its bill into one of the holes it had been working on.

After several more minutes of resting, it did the same thing again and then began to make its way down and around the tree, inserting its bill into holes, and only tapping a little bit now and then. Although I had not tracked exactly where it went, I think it was retracing its path up and around the trunk, inserting its bill to look for sap in the holes it had earlier made or worked on.

All this time, it did not call or mew. The only sound it made was its tapping on the tree.

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