|Conservation status||Populations have probably declined somewhat, owing to cutting of forest in northwest, but the bird is still fairly numerous.|
|Habitat||Coniferous forest, aspen groves; in winter, also other trees. During summer on the northwest coast, the Red-breasted Sapsucker is often in forest of hemlock or spruce. Farther south in the mountains it is found in pine forest, always with a mixture of deciduous trees such as aspen, alder, willow. In winter some move south or into lowlands, occurring in deciduous or coniferous trees.|
Drills tiny holes in tree bark, usually in neatly spaced rows, and then returns to them periodically to feed on the sap that oozes out. Also eats bits of cambium and other tree tissues, as well as insects that are attracted to the sap. Besides drilling sap wells, also gleans insects from tree trunks in more typical woodpecker fashion, and sallies out to catch insects in the air. Berries and fruits are eaten at all seasons.
5-6, sometimes 4-7. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night and part of day), 11-15 days. Both parents feed young, bringing them insects, sap, and fruit. Young leave nest 23-28 days after hatching. Parents teach young the sapsucking habit, feed them for about 10 days after they leave nest. 1 brood per year.
Includes insects, tree sap, fruit. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including many ants (taken from tree trunks). Also regularly feeds on tree sap, and on berries and fruits.
Courtship displays include pointing bill up and swaying from side to side. Nest: Nest site is usually in deciduous tree such as aspen, alder, cottonwood, or willow, but also in firs and other conifers. Nest cavity is often high, may be 50-60' or more above ground. Both sexes help excavate. Often uses same tree in subsequent years, but not same nest cavity.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Living in a relatively temperate climate, this is the least migratory of the sapsuckers. In Pacific Northwest, birds from interior may move to coast or southward; coastal birds may be permanent residents. Southern populations may move to lower elevations or short distance south in winter.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsSoft, slurred whee-ur or mew, like call of Red-naped Sapsucker.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Red-breasted Sapsucker
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Red-breasted Sapsucker
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.