Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2005-

Common name:

Red-breasted sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
Date: Nov. 8, 2005
Time: Approx 2:30 p.m.
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult
Location: Sunbrook Golf Course, Woodbridge section, St. George
County: Washington
Distance to bird: 8 to 12 feet
Optical equipment: none
Weather: Dry, mid-60's, calm winds, high overcast
Light Conditions: Bright overcast
Description:        Size of bird: 8 to 9 in
(Description:)       Basic Shape: woodpecker/sapsucker
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: completely red head and throat, grey belly, dark body
(Description:)            Bill Type: woodpecker
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The completely red head and throat was striking.
Belly grey, black wings, greyish back with horizontal barring and a central vertical black area. Next most striking characteristic was the very distinct white facial stripe below the eye in the red-napped type of pattern, with a very small white stripe--really almost just a dot--above the eye. Note: I did not see a long white stripe on the folded wings--they appeared all black
Song or call & method of delivery: silent
Behavior: Very calm, typical pose on side of tree trunk, did not get very nervous when I approached in golf cart. Only moved a short distance up the trunk. It stopped working and just watched me while I was close
Habitat: This is a very well-watered golf course with lots of trees.
Bird was in a shorter deciduous tree with multiple trunks about 10 feet to the left of the fairway and close to a small grove of mixed trees--it was not a very open area, except for the fairway
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Red-naped sapsucker. Key difference is no black on the head of bird I saw--it was completely red. Also the white above the eye was a very short line or dot, not the much longer line of
the red-naped. However, the white line below the eye was very distinct and in the pattern similar to red-naped. I wondered about a hybrid, but discussed this with a naturalist at Snow Canyon campground ranger station the next day, who informed me the hybrids which have been seen had
the bolder white stripe above the eye of the red-naped
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Multiple sightings of yellow-bellied (I grew up in Illinois) and red-naped. Have not seen the red-breasted previously (which is why I really noticed this bird--I knew it was new to me). of course, many other woodpeckers. Only other red-headed woodpecker is the red-headed woodpecker, but I am very familiar with that species and this had no white belly or large white wing patch.
References consulted: Kaufman "Birds of North America"; Audubon Society Field
Guide to North American Birds (Western Region); National Geographic Field
Guide to Birds of North America; Sidley (naturalist at ranger station had this guide). The Sidley southern form illustration is the closest--pretty identical to what I saw. They other guides have very indistinct facial stripe
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Patricia Richards
Observer's address: 1582 E. Tomahawk Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84103
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: no birders in the foursome!
Date prepared: Nov. 10, 2005
Additional material:  
Additional comments: I hope someone else will try to look for this bird--I would love verification. But I did have a great view of this bird from a close distance and was able in particular to observe the head markings. I can find no other species this could be.