by Jacob Crider
Unique amongst the other species of Woodpeckers in our region, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus various) are a common winter visitor at CMNP. These medium-sized Woodpeckers are our only seen here during fall, winter, and early spring, travelling as far south as Central America in winter and north to Canada and Alaska in the summer. You can observe them for much of the year here at CMNP as they also breed and nest in the Great Lakes region and can be seen until mid-May. They are similar in appearance to Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers but are slightly greater in size with a more streaked white pattern on their wings and body rather than checkered. They also have a yellow wash on the belly and males have a red throat patch.
Sapsuckers have a special feeding tactic where they drill small rows of sap wells in the bark of trees to release the sap from the tree and eat the insects that are attracted to the sap. They will also feed on insects, tree sap, fruits, and will sometimes visit feeders. The sap wells are widely beneficial to other animals, most notably the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that will drink the sap in early spring before favorable flowers are in bloom.
At Creasey Mahan, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers prefer our forested areas where they favor Sugar Maple and Tulip Poplar for drilling sap wells. Occasionally they will visit our suet feeders at the bird blind.