Friday, October 31, 2014

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Immature male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yes, there really is a bird called a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In this area, we only see them during the winter when they migrate from their summer range in Canada, Alaska and the extreme northern U. S. They are not particularly shy, but I don't see them that much. If you know their call, they may attract your attention, but you might also think you are hearing a cat mew. They sound very much like a cat with a weak mew.

I can't tell you how much enjoyment we have gotten from our bird feeder over the years. We are in and out of the kitchen all the time at our home and it has worked out well to have the feeder within view of the kitchen window. That way, if you are doing something at the kitchen sink, it is quite natural to see what is happening at the feeder. From the constant short lessons on bird behavior, over time, we have compiled quite an understanding of the behavior of different breeds of birds.

Adult female with no red feathers under her chin

Plus, when an uncommon bird migrates through the area, it is more likely to stop in and be seen because the regular birds are so relaxed and use to the feeder. That is what happened the other day when an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker appeared behind the deck. He was a little skittish and kept flying to a tree near the deck and then back into the woods a ways. He hung around long enough for me to get a couple of photos. I was pleased with the result seeing as I was hand-holding the telephoto and shooting through a window.

Same female with red feathers on her crest

I'm not sure what it was thinking because it's main diet is tree sap and the insects the sap attracts. It will also eat berries, but I am not sure if it will eat seeds. I have never actually seen one on the feeder.

There are a couple of trees on our property that they have targeted for sap. One is this Sweet Gum tree. You can see how extensively a YBSS has worked on it. Despite there being numerous other Sweet Gums all around it, this is the only one it taps.

Another tree it visits regularly is a pine called a Carolina Hemlock at the top of the driveway. All the holes they have drilled haven't seemed to affect either one, but I read that it is possible for them to girdle and kill a tree.

I was surprised one winter to see a YBSS sipping on a poison ivy vine. A mature poison ivy vine can be as big around as an adult's forearm. The hairy vine in this picture is the poison ivy vine it was sipping. I guess they must not be allergic to the sap.

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