Male Red-naped Sapsucker – An Interloper

I found this bird interesting for two reasons.


1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Last month I spent four days photographing a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers feeding a single chick at their nest cavity in Clark County, Idaho but I’m pretty confident that this male was a third adult near the nest. I say that because I perceive some of its markings to be slightly different from those of either of the nesting sapsuckers and its behavior was markedly different from the two parents.

Without exception the parents would fly to the cavity with food, feed the chick and then vamoose almost immediately. I can’t remember that pattern varying significantly even once. But on my third day with these birds, with both parents out foraging for food, this male without food flew in and landed on this branch directly above the nest cavity. He also inspected that cavity (by sticking his head into the entrance) and did the same thing to another abandoned cavity in the same tree. Neither parent over four days ever paid any attention to any of the other cavities in the tree (there were at least 3 others). When this bird flew off I never saw it again that I know of.

But what I find most interesting about this image is seeing the sapsucker on a horizontal perch and in a mostly horizontal position. Virtually every other sapsucker I’ve photographed of any species (Red-naped or Williamson’s Sapsuckers) was in a vertical position on a vertical tree trunk.

I was curious to know if any of my bird field guides show a sapsucker of any species posed horizontally in their photos or paintings so I just now looked in three of them. Except for a few illustrations of sapsuckers in flight I couldn’t find a single one (out of dozens) where the bird wasn’t plastered against the side of a tree.

So I like this photo partly for its variety.




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