Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2007-39

Common name:

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber ruber
Date: 09-27 and 09-30-07
Time: about 12:30 pm both days
Length of time observed: 1 hour combined
Number: 1
Age: first year ?
Location: orchard at Lytle Ranch, Beaver Dam Wash
County: Washington
Latilong: 19
Elevation: ~820 m
Distance to bird: ~10-20 m
Optical equipment: 8 x 42 leica binoculars
Weather: clear and calm
Light Conditions: mid morning sunlight and shade
Description:        Size of bird: see below
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Head and upperparts a deep rosy uniform red extending from nape of neck over head to lower breast; extensive red on breast extending to yellow belly with distinct demarcation; more yellow in center of belly gradually fading to buffy white on sides, flanks, and undertail coverts, with diffuse dusky markings. Red head with long stout dark bill and dark eye, loral area dark black immediately in front of eye with a prominent white preocular stripe. Wings black with a large
distinct white patch, and white spots on black primaries. Back very dark with limited buffy yellow spotting in two distinct rows. Short stiff tail, black with white lateral spots.

Identified as the northern subspecies (S. r. ruber) by head pattern, deep red color of head, bright yellow belly, and back spots (very sparse and deep yellow colored).
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: none observed
Behavior: working sapwells and eating persimmons in the orchard at Lytle, short flights from tree to tree, would often perch low and work low on the trunks of fruit trees.
Habitat: Orchard along the riparian zone of Beaver Dam Wash, surrounded by Mojave desert (creosote/ Joshua tree habitat).
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Distinguished from other sapsuckers by extensive red on head meeting yellow on belly. Other sapsuckers and hybrids have black crescent on upper chest below throat, and distinct black
and white facial patterns.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is the seventh Red-breasted Sapsucker I've observed in sw Utah since 2003, although it's the first of the ruber subspecies. I've also observed dozens of apparent RB X RN Sapsuckers in
Washington County (approximately 1 in 15 to 20 sapsuckers during fall migration shows some signs of hybridizition).
References consulted: Jon Dunn identified the bird as the northern subspecies
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Rick Fridell
Observer's address: Hurricane, UT
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Jon Dunn, David Quadry, Lena Hayashi, Lucy Lee, Jay ??,  Diane Wong, Pam Nickels, and many WFO conference field trip attendees.
Date prepared: 10-29-07
Additional material: Photos
Additional Comments: description above is copied and pasted from field notes prepared on September 27 and 30th.