Bird GuideWoodpeckersRed-naped Sapsucker

At a Glance

A western bird, common in the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin regions. Very similar to Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and for most of the 20th century it was considered only a subspecies of that bird.
Picidae, Woodpeckers, Tree-clinging Birds
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains
California, Great Lakes, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flap/Glide, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

A short-distance migrant, wintering from the southern edge of the breeding range south into Mexico. Seldom strays any distance east or west of main range.


8-9" (20-23 cm). Similar to Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but usually shows some red on upper nape. Male has more red on throat; female has throat partly red (not all white). Young in late fall resemble adults (not brown-headed).
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Long, Rounded
Tail Shape
Multi-pointed, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A soft slurred whee-ur or mew.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Drum, Rattle, Scream


Woodlands, aspen groves; in winter, also other trees. In summer mostly in mountains in mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, especially around aspens. During migration and winter it occurs in both mountains and lowlands, in deciduous trees, riverside willow groves, pine-oak woods, orchards.



4-6, sometimes 3-7. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night and part of day), 10-13 days. Both parents feed young, bringing them insects, sap, and fruit. Young leave nest 25-29 days after hatching. Parents teach young the sapsucking habit, feed them for about 10 days after they leave nest. 1 brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

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, and birds may concentrate in fruiting wild trees in winter.


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 to show off colored throat patch; ritualized tapping at nest site. Nest site is cavity in tree, usually deciduous tree such as aspen or poplar, 6-60' above ground. Often uses same tree in consecutive years, sometimes same nest hole. Favors live trees affected by heartwood decay fungus, which softens heartwood while leaving outer part of trunk firm, but will also nest in dead or dying conifers. Both sexes help excavate.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Has suffered some loss of habitat, but still common and widespread.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Red-naped Sapsucker. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Red-naped 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.

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