Conservation status Has suffered some loss of habitat, but still common and widespread.
Family Woodpeckers
Habitat 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.
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.

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.


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.


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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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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.

  • 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.

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Songs and Calls

A soft slurred whee-ur or mew.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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