Red-naped Sapsuckers arrive in the Rockies in May and immediately begin foraging. Sapsuckers have adopted a variation on the woodpecker theme: they drill lines of parallel 'wells' in tree bark. As the wells fill with sap, they attract insects, and Red-naped Sapsuckers make their rounds, collecting the trapped bugs and pooled sap. Some people think that the damaging effect on ornamental and harvestable trees overshadows the bird's resourcefulness, but most healthy trees can withstand a series of sapsucker wells. This foraging behavior has convinced some people that some birds are capable of advance planning. The Red-naped Sapsucker was formerly considered a subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a species of eastern North America.
I.D.: General: red forehead; red patch behind the ear; black-and-white-striped head; black bib; yellow wash on the breast; black-and-white wings and back; white rump; light yellow upper back with fine black streaking. Male: red chin and throat. Female: white chin; red throat.
Size: L 81/2 in. (22 cm).
Range: fairly common migrant and summer breeder south of Waterton Lakes and Glacier NPs; rare north to Jasper NP.
Habitat: aspen and birch woodlands and alder shrubs in the foothills.
Nesting: excavates a cavity in a living aspen or other deciduous tree; occasionally uses the same tree for 2 years, making a new hole; lines cavity with wood chips; pair incubates 4-5 eggs for 13 days.
Feeding: hammers a series of small, square wells in living trees; eats the sap and insects from the wells; frequently flycatches insects.
Voice: call is a cat-like meow; tapping is irregular and Morse code-like.
Similar Species: Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker: lack the red forehead and the black bib. Williamson's Sapsucker: male is darker overall and has a large, white wing patch.