Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2016-49

Common name:

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
Date: 12/17/2016
Time: 4:15 pm
Length of time observed: 10 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Mount Olivet Cemetery
County: Salt Lake
Distance to bird: 10 feet
Optical equipment: Nikon 10x50
Weather: Partly cloudy, no precipitation, winds 0-5mph, 22 degrees F
Light Conditions: good
Description:        Size of bird: Medium-sized woodpecker, larger than Downy, smaller than flicker
(Description:)       Basic Shape: woodpecker-shaped, perched vertically on bark
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: black back and tail, pale belly with mottled flanks, dull yellow wash on back, red head and breast with faint white facial stripe.
(Description:)            Bill Type: long, black, chisel-like
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Definite sapsucker species with black back, white wing barring, and mottled black-and-white flanks. Back had two yellowish spotted bands with very little white. Head was predominantly red with faint white malar stripe. Nape was entirely red with no mix of white or black feathers. When it flew to a nearby tree, I got a very good look at its throat and chest which were all red with no black chest band or even mixture of black feathers. Belly had faint yellow quality to it.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: No calls other than the faint rapping it made as it chiseled at the tree which alerted me to its presence.
Behavior: Stayed stationary for several minutes as it chipped at the tree and fed on the sap. It eventually moved around said tree and then flew to an adjacent tree where I got good looks at its head and breast before it flew off.
Habitat: Open mixed woodland with good percentage of conifer trees
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Red-naped Sapsucker only other possible species based on overall color, size, and shape. This species was eliminated based on a few notable field marks:
-Back pattern was mostly yellow, lacked a sufficient amount of white
-Nape was completely red, no black at all
-Though there were faint white and black facial markings, they were mixed in extensively by red feathers
-chest was also completely red, no black band or mix of black feathers
-a hybrid species was also considered, but the lack of black feathers mixed in with the red chest, nape, and face eliminated a possible hybrid
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
 Over the past year and a half, I have seen both Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsuckers (mostly the latter) and I have come to know key field marks that differentiate the two species; specifically the bold facial markings of the Red-naped and the extent of red on the head, nape, and chest of the Red-breasted.
References consulted: Several field guides and online information on identifying between Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers and their hybrids.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Ian Batterman
Observer's address: 2309 W. Flycatcher Ln. #5-105, West Valley, UT 84119
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Unfortunately, it flew away before my fellow birders could see it.
Date prepared: 12/25/2016
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: Seen during Great Salt Lake Christmas Bird Count.