Wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photo
by Lloyd Spitalnik
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers used to winter from the southeast United States south to Panama, and many still do. However, since the early 1980's an increasing number are being found wintering in the mid-Atlantic and southern New England states. I saw my first winter sapsucker on the Storrs Christmas Bird Count in 1981. It was the first one ever for that count, and everyone thought that I was crazy. Fortunately, I was able to produce that bird the next day for the count compiler, so the record was accepted. Since then, an increasing number of sapsuckers have appeared on CBC's in Connecticut, and some have remained through the entire winter. We started seeing them on the CBC and later in the winter around White Memorial's main area in the mid-1990's. We counted a record-high 5 in this territory on the 2010 CBC. Though we don't see them around here daily during January, we usually get a half dozen reports over the course of the month. Despite extremely harsh weather this month, we still have managed to see a sapsucker around the Museum on 3 different days; the most recent being Tuesday, the 25th. It looks healthy, and has been quite vocal. We have seen it feeding at its own sap wells in Mountain Ash and Sugar Maple trees, at our Bird Observatory's suet feeder, and on Poison Ivy berries near Ongley Pond. We have also observed it probing the bark of the White Ash trees in front of the Museum. If you wish to try to find this bird, the best way is to listen for its "whee" or cat-like mewing calls.

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