Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Shpyrapicus
Species: varius


Gr. pikos woodpecker
La. picus woodpecker
Gr. Circe, mythological daughter
     of Helios, changed Picus, son
     of Saturn, into a woodpecker
La. forma form, shape, kind
Gr. sphura hammer
La. varius variegated, multi-

BI Yellow-bellied Sapsucker laf50.jpg (14648 bytes)

Louis Agasiz Fuertes

Scarlet-red crown and throat (some females have a black crown and a white throat), white nape, black breast, pale-lemon sometimes speckled belly, black stripped wings and back, 8 - 9 inches.

Lives from southeast Alaska and the Yukon, to James Bay, to eastern Quebec almost to Newfoundland, and from Minnesota and Iowa to throughout the Appalachians up to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Winters in southeastern U.S.


     USGS Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Map

Nests in deep tree cavities (as much as 18 - 20 inches) which it bores from just out of reach to twenty or thirty, sometimes over fifty feet high, often in live aspen and poplar or dead birch trees in woodlands with other deciduous trees (aspen, birch, poplar, willow, etc.) mixed with coniferous trees (spruce). Sometimes it nests in orchards or residential areas.

Lays five or six, more or less, white eggs once per year which hatch after less than two weeks incubation and young leave the nest in about another four weeks, a relatively long brood season. Feeds on sap from a wide range of trees, including alder, birch, maple, poplar, wild apple and many other fruit and ornamental trees.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, P. A. Traverner

F.C. Hennessey

Makes systematic patterns of holes which it returns to feed from with its long bushy tongue.

Eats insects attracted to sap dripping from its holes or ones that simply inhabit trees, and those it catches in aerial chases. Occasionally eats berries and other fruit, and the soft pulpy layer under the bark of fruit trees. Sometimes they eat slugs.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Nestbox measurements: 5" by 5" square base, 12" to the ceiling with a 1.5" inch hole centered 10" above the floor - inside dimensions.   Assembled with corrosion resistant screws fit to pre-drilled countersunk pilot holes.  Hinged roof is secured with shutter hooks for easy access. 

Install in woodland edges near clearings within the proximity of lowlands and water, from just out of reach to twenty feet - no more than can safely be reached and returned to for yearly maintenance.

Nestbox Plans for Eastern Bluebird & Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Nestbox

Installations out of reach should be installed and maintained by professionals: carpenters, electricians, power line workers, etc.

Since the Sapsucker often excavates new cavities (often in the same tree), it might make sense to fill the box with wood chips, or half full, it's debated. While the chances of attracting a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in some areas may be slim, other woodpeckers, fly catchers, even titmice and nuthatches may use this nestbox.


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