Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2016-01

Common name:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus varius
Date: 19 December 2015
Time: 11:45AM
Length of time observed: One hour.
Number: 1
Age: Immature
Sex: Unknown
Location: Porcupine Ranch (no public access).
County: Grand
Latilong: 38.5791- 109.33417
Elevation: 6,000'
Distance to bird: 60 - 100'
Optical equipment: 8x42 binoculars, 20-60x spotting scope and iPhone camera.
Weather: Temperature - low 20's F . High humidity, 4-5" of fresh snow. Hazy sky.
Light Conditions: Difffused light from haze of moisture in the air made for no shadows in the open branches of the cottonwood tree where the bird was photographed. Dusky light conditions in the pines where the bird was initially observed.
Description:        Size of bird: Medium sized perching bird.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Woodpecker shape.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black/white with mottled brown. Red forehead. Yellowish hints on streaky breast and belly.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Straight chisel bill.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Forecrown red. White stripe over eye. Black stripe from eye back. White stripe below eye from bill back, with broken black below. Straight, strong, chisel bill. White chin and throat. Nape largely white. Back messy - black, white and mottled brown. Wings black and white with large white patch. White rump. Tail black and white. Breast and belly dirty yellowish with blackish/brownish streaking. Undertail white.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Mewing call, "complaining".
Behavior: Clinging to pine tree trunks. Quiet, sporadic tapping.
Habitat: Pinyon/Juniper surrounding 15 acre pine plantation. 100 yards from Placer Creek drainage with poplars and cottonwood trees.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Downy Woodpecker is smaller with white back and no large white wing patch. More aggressive method of foraging/hammering than sapsuckers.

Hairy Woodpecker is larger with white back and no large white wing patch. Also more aggressive method of foraging/hammering than sapsuckers.

Red-naped Sapsucker at this time of year typically appears in adult plumage. Immature RNSA resembles adult, lacks black breast band.

Williamson's Sapsucker similar shape but very different plumage pattern/color.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I observed an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker last year in the same valley as this bird. (12th Documented Sighting of a Utah Review Specie 19DEC2014).

I am quite familiar with Red-naped Sapsuckers, who are a common breeding bird in my area.I have observed and photographed RNSA for the past several years.
References consulted: NatGeo Field Guide to the Birds of NA.
Birds of North America Online, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Steve Heinrich
Observer's address: 177 Shafer Lane HC64 Box 2913 Castle Valley Utah 84532-9136
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: From photos: Tim Avery
Kenny Frisch
Date prepared: January 8 2016
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: I'm comfortable calling the bird a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. After the initial observation and photographs, I went back several times desiring better photos. Saw the bird on one other occasion, no photos.