News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Country birds

The red-naped sapsucker [Sphyrapicus nuchalis] feeds on the sap and insects drawn to the sap after drilling small holes in mostly deciduous trees: birch, willow, and especially aspen. Hummingbirds may follow these sapsuckers and feed by actually sipping on the sweet sap.

Nests are excavated within diseased trees and three to seven white eggs are laid directly on the nest bottom, resting on wood chips with no soft nesting material used. Both parents incubate the eggs for 10-13 days with the male sapsucker performing the nighttime duties. After spending 25-29 noisy days being fed by both parents, the red-naped sapsucker fledglings leave the nest and are taught to feed the sapsucking habit for 10 days.

These sapsuckers are related to yellow-bellied and red-breasted sapsuckers and formerly were considered one species. Named in 1858 by Smithsonian naturalist Spencer Baird, they slurp the sap with a tongue that is equipped with short hair-like fuzz. A group of sapsuckers are known as a “slurp.”

For more red-naped sapsucker photos, visit


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 06/12/2024 12:51