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Monday, April 19, 2010

Red Breasted Sapsucker Banded in Shoreline

New Wildlife Sightings

Chris Southwick, a volunteer "bird bander" with the Puget Sound Bird Observatory Caught, banded and released a Red-Breasted Sapsucker in the Briarcrest neighborhood this weekend.  She also teaches volunteers how to monitor local birds with the bird banding program and works with  the Shoreline Backyard Wildlife Project to help Shoreline become a "certified" City  with the National Wildlife Federation. Shoreline is very close to the goal of certification now. You can help by certifying your yard
by contacting the project at -

Interesting fact from Bird web: Sapsuckers get their name from their foraging strategy, which consists of drilling neat horizontal rows of holes into tree trunks and then returning to those holes later to feed on the running sap and the insects attracted to it.

Also significantly, volunteer advocates, Ruth Williams and Janet Way observed many small fish in the channel of a tributary of Thornton Creek at Park #6 entering the Beaver Pond. The Channel in question flows from the site of Hubbard Homestead Park.  The Great Blue Heron was also sighted again feasting on many tasty bites there. Volunteers will attempt to get a photo soon that shows these fish. Fish Habitat is an extremely important issue in Thornton Creek Watershed.  This creek, which is the largest watershed in Seattle and Shoreline is home to at least 5 species of salmonids. The Hubbard Homestead Park site is controversial currently, because a spring and wetland were to be part of the design for the park. Mr Bruce Hubbard discovered a map showing the "stream" labeled.  Citizens point to this stream labeling as signifcant to the future of the promised design.

Seattle Audubon has more details on this beautiful bird.

Click for WA Range Map

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus ruber 
Fairly common resident west. Rare east.

General Description

North American Range
Red-breasted Sapsuckers are similar in appearance to the closely related Red-naped Sapsuckers, but they have red heads and breasts. Their upperparts are black barred with white, and they have a prominent white stripe across each black wing. They lack the black breast-band of the other two sapsucker species found in Washington, and they have yellowish bellies. Males and females look much alike. Juveniles are mottled brown but have white wing-stripes like the adults.



The dense mixed and conifer forests typical
 of western Washington are the preferred
breeding habitat of Red-breasted Sapsuckers.
They are often found in mature and old-growth
forests, but will breed in second growth as long
as there are some large nesting trees. They can
also be found in riparian habitats with large


Sapsuckers get their name from their foraging
strategy, which consists of drilling neat horizontal
rows of holes into tree trunks and then returning
to those holes later to feed on the running sap
and the insects attracted to it. Unlike most
woodpeckers, they forage in healthy trees
and can actually kill a tree if they drill too
many sap-holes around its trunk, although
this is quite uncommon.


The main food of Red-breasted Sapsuckers is
tree sap. They also eat some insects and fruit.
They take more insects during the nesting
season, and they feed insects to their young.


Much is not well known about the nesting
behaviors of Red-breasted Sapsuckers.
They form monogamous pairs, and both
members of the pair excavate the nest cavity.
Nests are usually built in deciduous trees, such
as aspen, alder, cottonwood, or willow, but they
may also be in firs or other conifers. The nest
is often high, 50-60 feet off the ground. Both
sexes typically incubate the 5 to 6 eggs for 12
to 13 days. Both feed the young, which leave
the nest after 25 to 29 days. The young are
probably dependent on the parents for ten
days or so thereafter. Red-breasted Sapsuckers
typically raise a single brood each year.

Migration Status

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are the least migratory
of Washington's sapsuckers and the only sapsuckers
that regularly occur in Washington during the winter.
If the weather turns cold enough for sap to freeze,
they may descend into the lowlands or move out to
the outer coast to find food.

Conservation Status

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are considered a keystone species, because many other species use the sap
wells they drill. Their numbers may have declined
because of habitat degradation, but these sapsuckers
are still fairly numerous, and the Breeding Bird
Survey has identified a non-significant annual increase in Washington since 1966. In the Cascades they
hybridize with Red-naped Sapsuckers.

When and Where to Find in Washington

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are common breeders
in appropriate habitat west of, and just beyond,
the Cascade crest, to the outer coast. They are
rare breeders in conifer forests east of the
Cascades and may be rare breeders in residential
areas or city parks in western Washington.
Wintering birds can be found in the western
Washington lowlands. They are extremely rare
winter visitors to eastern Washington.

Click here to visit this species' account and 
breeding-season distribution map inSound to Sage
Seattle Audubon's on-line breeding bird atlas of 
Island, King, Kitsap, and Kittitas Counties.

Abundance Code DefinitionsAbundance
C=Common; F=Fairly Common; U=Uncommon; R=Rare; I=Irregular
Pacific Northwest CoastFFFFFFFFFFFF
Canadian Rockies
Blue Mountains
Columbia Plateau

Washington Range Map

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