Sunday, January 24, 2016

Got snow?

Post by dedicated Virginia Master Naturalist Charlotte Hubbard:

Since my work and life are frequently demanding, I don’t mind so much being snowed in for a few days. (my photo)  I am safe and warm and well fed, and even when the roads are impassable, I have some charming visitors! 

One of my favorites is the male yellow bellied sap sucker who has begun frequenting my suet feeder. 

As described by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are fairly small woodpeckers with stout, straight bills. The long wings extend about halfway to the tip of the stiff, pointed tail at rest. Often, sapsuckers hold their crown feathers up to form a peak at the back of the head.

Because of our visitor’s frequently ruffled appearance, and the fact that he seems to have a collection of traits resembling several other more commonly seen birds, my husband and I often refer to the YBSS as the “spare parts bird”. He may well have been made of parts left over from the other woodpeckers we see!

On a walk through the forest you might spot rows of shallow holes in tree bark. In the East, this is the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, who laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. They sit still on tree trunks for long intervals while feeding. To find one, listen for their loud mewing calls or stuttered drumming.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. They often nest in groves of small trees, and spend winters in open woodlands.

Who is visiting you? Consider participating in the Great Back Yard Bird Count February 12-15.  The four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. Find out more at

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