Red-naped Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis
The Red-naped Sapsucker is the species within the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker group
that nests in the Rocky Mountains. This Red-naped, a rarity on the West Coast, where
the Red-breasted predominates, was observed by local birders at Cooley Picnic
Ground in Stevens Creek Park, Cupertino, for a few days in April 2008. Females of
the species have a complete black border around the red on the chin, which this bird
seemed to display, though not clearly enough to resolve all doubt about the bird's sex.
Above and below are pictures of another Red-naped rarity in my home area, Silicon
Valley, this one at Almaden Lake in southern part of Santa Clara County. The picture
above clearly shows the red feathering on the bird's nape that gives this species its
common English name. Below, a horizontal portrait of the same bird, this one showing
the solid red throat patch with an incomplete black frame that indicates a male.
This Red-naped male was working his sapsucker wells in a tree in Cave Creek
Canyon in Arizona, also with an incomplete black frame around the red throat
This male, likewise showing the characteristic male throat pattern, was carrying
insects to feed his nesting young, in Centennial Valley, Montana.
This is the same (probably female) bird shown in the picture at the top; she is
working the sapsucker wells in the tree she visited in the spring of 2008. She may
have been there longer than the few days for which she was observed, and made
the wells herself, or the wells may have been made by a winter resident Red-breasted
Sapsucker which had departed for its nesting ground by the time this vagrant bird