- Author: Robert J Keiffer
Many folks are probably not even aware of the group of woodpeckers called "sapsuckers" as they can be a very secretive bird with habits like scurrying behind a branch as an intruder walks by. The four species in this group are the: 1) Williamson's Sapsucker, 2) Red-breasted Sapsucker, 3) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and 4) Red-naped Sapsucker. All species have a white rump, bold white wing patches, and a least a trace of yellow in the belly.
Most species of sapsuckers have a faint "mew" call reminiscent of a kitten. These woodpeckers drill rows of evenly-spaced round or squarish holes in the cambium layer of certain tree species. These "wells" develop a sap flow from the tree that also attracts insects. The bird will return to these wells time after time to feed upon both the sap and the attracted bugs. These sap-wells are also fed upon by other bird species such as Anna's Hummingbirds and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
All four species have been found in Mendocino County, and all but the Williamson's has been found at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center. Here you see the expected and most-common Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) which is common throughout the non-desert portions of California.