The Bird with a Funny Name

Early on a beautiful, cool, blue-sky morning, a Pine Warbler sang, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew quietly to the trunk of a pecan tree in our front yard. The sunlight lit its dusky yellow belly, flecked with charcoal, and made its throat and forehead burn clear, true red. After a minute or two of tapping on the trunk, he flew restlessly to one branch and then another, on this tree and another nearby before he finally found a spot that seemed satisfactory, where he stayed and worked his way steadily and intently upward. Except for the flashes of brilliant red and the sound of his tapping, his coloring was so close to the mottled dark gray of the trees he might have gone unnoticed.

This bird with a funny name that’s often the source of jokes about birdwatchers is actually very striking in appearance, mostly patterned in black and white, with a pale yellow belly and bright red forehead and throat on the males. The females have a white throat, and juveniles are several shades of brown and white in similar patterns. The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are a common winter sight in our neighborhood, which is an old pecan grove still full of trees, and their piquant mewing calls can often be heard among the bare gray branches.

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