Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow bellied sapsucker


The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is a spirited, medium-sized woodpecker that makes its home in southern Canada and the northern parts of the United States. The bird is 7-9 inches high and has a wingspan of 13-16 inches. They weigh between 1.52 and 1.94 ounces.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker that has a vertical white stripe down its side. It has a very striking red crown and forehead with a black border.

The face is striped with black and white and the back is black with whitish barring. The upper chest is also black and there's black barring on the side of the belly. The Yellow bellied Sapsucker gets it name from its yellow belly, back, and top part of the chest. Its wings are black with white spots, and the woodpecker has black eyes, feet and bill. The rump is white and tail is dark with black and white barring on central most and outermost retricies. While the female does have a red head, she has a white throat and chin, while the male is entirely red in this area.


Food consists of sap, fruit and insects from the leaves of plants. Yellow bellied Sapsuckers can be attracted to backyard bird feeders. They make two different kinds of holes in trees: the first, through which the sap is lapped, is round, deep, and placed in a vertical line, one above another up and down the tree. The second kind of hole is rectangular and not as deep, it will continually peck at the hole to keep the sap flowing. They acquire insects by every available means, such as tapping, probing, prying and fly catching. 

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Nesting Habits:

The Yellow bellied Sapsucker will frequent man-made bird houses  but the chances of them breeding there is rare. However, they do use man-made materials for drumming, including metal roofs and street signs. It is not uncommon to see this woodpecker drumming each day on the same metal sign. For bedding, however, they prefer to make a nest in the hole of a dead tree. The female lays 2-7 white eggs. Male and female birds are very devoted to one another, and even take turns in building the nest.

More Information:

The bird's habitat is aspen and birch trees, along the edge of a forest or stream. They like to winter in forests, preferably in woods that are semi-open.

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker's breeding range is from the central part of Alaska to Newfoundland, then south to southern Alberta, northern parts of Pennsylvania and Iowa and down into the Appalachians and North Carolina. The Sapsucker is the only woodpecker on the eastern coast that is totally migratory. They are known to head as far south as Panama. In Alberta, where the Sapsucker territory is close to that of the Red-napped Sapsucker, the two will breed and form a hybrid.

With the name Sapsucker, you might think that tree sap was this bird's primary food but that is not the case. In fact, the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is mainly an insect-eater. It ranks only next to the Flicker as an anteater  with 36% of his food coming from ants. He also devours wasps, beetles, bugs, grasshoppers and crickets, and eats more flies than any other woodpecker. Because the shallow holes they make in tree trunks are used by other species of wild birds the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is regarded as "a keystone species," meaning that his existence is vital to the entire bird community.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are fascinating to watch. Unfortunately not everyone gets to see them. If you are fortunate enough to see them in your yard please tell us about them.

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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First one I ever have seen at feeder!  
A sapsucker has shown up at our feeder today. We have 30 inches of snow on the ground it's very cold, 14° and I have put out chopped up suet hulled sunflower …

Guarding the  
I have had a male yellow bellied sapsucker in my yard for the last few days. He loves the "bark butter" I spread on the trunk of a tree and the suet I …

Drumming on the Downspout 
I enjoy watching birds. However, I wish the yellow-bellied sapsucker that is hanging out in my woods could be seen and NOT heard. At approxiately …

Eating My Backyard 
My dad and I think that yellow-bellied woodpeckers are responsible for the slow dieing of 5 our pine trees. We are putting Tanglefoot all over the trunk, …

Woodpecker at Hummingbird feeder 
For the last couple of weeks a woodpecker has been visiting my hummingbird feeders. His head,from his bill down to the middle of the back of his neck …

Peanut butter  Not rated yet
I am located in central Indiana. I live on the Mississinewa River. It is cold and snowy here right now. I have four different types of bird feeders. …

YBS, Such an entertainer Not rated yet
I'm fortunate to have a YBS all year round and enjoy his feeding in a maple tree just off my 3rd floor balcony. For the last couple of days, he's taken …

Stayed too long Not rated yet
We live in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. We have a female yellow-bellied sapsucker visiting our suet feeder. She started coming about a week ago and stayed about …

Yellow Belly Sap Sucker (I think) Not rated yet
Located in Central Mass. December 9, 2013. Spotted the bird in the morning at the suet, made of seeds and nuts.

Office Window Not rated yet
A yellow bellied sapsucker is tapping at my 13th floor office window. It is a large window and faces the roof of the 12th floor. It appears to be admiring …

Rene Not rated yet
A Yellow bellied sapsucker has been into our humming bird feeder in the last few weeks, as well as our seed/nut bird feeder. A first for us !

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker Pecking for Sap  Not rated yet
We have some suet hanging from a birdhouse, but this bird was so busy putting holes in the tree next to our fence, that I was able to walk along the fence …

Help! Not rated yet
Hi, Sue... love this web site, by the way. I have a bit of a problem bird. A yellow bellied sapsucker is destroying my very expensive Scots pines that …

House Guest Not rated yet
My mom was out walking my dog this morning when she heard a series of loud piercing cries from the end of the street which piqued my dog and her interest. …

Linette Not rated yet
How do you keep Yellow Bellied Sap Suckers out of a Hummingbird feeder? One little guy drained two of my feeders in a day, a lot of it went on the ground …

Sapsucker visitation Not rated yet
What a treat to do a double-take, thinking a Downey is visiting my inverted suet feeder, until I put on my glasses and see the red crest extending forward …

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