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Red-breasted Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus ruber

Length: 8.5 inches Wingspan: 16 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Red head, throat, and upper breast, dark back with white barring, white wing patch

Red-breasted Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus ruberThe Red-breasted Sapsucker is found in forested habitats along the West Coast of North America, from Alaska to the Mexican border.  They are a close relative of the Yellow-bellied and Red-naped Sapsuckers.  All three were once considered the same species.  However, the ranges of the three species only meet near the edges of their respective ranges, and there are distinct plumage differences.  Interbreeding between species may occur in the limited ranges where they overlap.   As with other sapsucker species, the Red-breasted Sapsucker will drill a series of closely-spaced "wells" to obtain sap from trees (see photo to the right).

Habitat: Found in hemlock or spruce forest in the northern part of their range, and pine or mixed pine forest further south.  In winter, birds can be found in a variety of forested habitats.

Diet: Feeds heavily on insects, as well as tree sap obtained from sap wells created by the birds.  Also will feed on fruits and berries

Nesting: The nest is in a tree cavity, often quite high off the ground.  The female lays 4-6 eggs, with both parents helping to incubate the eggs, and feed and tend to the young after the eggs hatch.

Song: Has multiple contact calls, including a bold KWEE-yah, and a more squealing neeah. The drumming of a Red-breasted Sapsucker is a series of several fast taps, with more taps slowly tapering off.

Migration: A permanent resident in parts of its range, particularly near the coast.  Birds breeding inland tend to move towards the coast and/or southward for the winter. 

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Red-breasted Sapsucker sightings

Similar Species: Most likely to be confused with Red-naped Sapsucker.  Also similar to the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Conservation Status: Populations appear to be stable, and the IUCN lists the Red-breasted Sapsucker as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Cornell's All About Birds - Red-breasted Sapsucker

2) - Red-breasted Sapsucker

3) WhatBird - Red-breasted Sapsucker

Photo Information: Photo taken by Kevin Cole - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Red-breasted Sapsucker - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Red-breasted Sapsucker Photos (coming soon!!)