Yellow-bellied

Sphyrapicus variusThe Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is one of the rarer woodpeckers in our city woods. It was harder to see by eye than it looks here in the camera, the feather pattern blending nicely into the bark and the shadow.Sphyrapicus variusSo let’s get closer… and the first thing that I see is that face! Is this an owl? Sphyrapicus variusEven closer and the “face” pattern starts to dissolve. A cursory look over the internet didn’t find similar notice of this pattern. Sphyrapicus variusThese are “sapsuckers” because they make a rows of holes in bark to bleed sap, then lap up the sap and and any insects that are drawn to the sweetness. This particular bird is a male, with red on throat as well as the forehead. Females have red only on the forehead.

5 Responses to “Yellow-bellied”


  1. 1 sally wehner January 23, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Well done Matthew; I’ve been watching these birds forever and never saw what you did. Very cool!!

    • 2 mthew January 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Thank you, but it’s almost all coincidence. I only noticed the “eyes” in the photographs camera afterwards. What I was struck by during the photographing itself was that the bird didn’t move, and you know how hoppy woodpeckers can be. It wasn’t drilling a hole or tapping, either. I wonder if if was hiding from me? The camouflage of the plumage really worked for that, since from below I could barely see the red patches.

  2. 3 Susan January 23, 2015 at 10:54 am

    w hat an original and interesting way of presenting these photos. On my
    own, I would have never seen this beautiful bird.

  3. 4 martha January 24, 2015 at 8:28 am

    The owl eyes are so amazing. I have never seen one of these guys, but who knows now? Maybe they are everywhere and we just don’t notice them because of their camouflage. The crabapple trees at BBG are covered with sapsucker rings.

    • 5 mthew January 24, 2015 at 10:02 am

      The Yellow-bellied is rare here. BBG and Prospect the places to occasionally see one. The young trees at BBP don’t catch much wood/sap-sucker activity, although the ubiquitous Downy does show up. The little Downy seems particularly bold and is likely to show up in a Brooklyn backyard.


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