Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2017-70

Common name:

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
Date: 12/10/2017
Time: 3:15 pm
Length of time observed: 10 minutes
Number: 1
Location: River Walk Trail in Zion National Park
County: Washington
Latilong: 37 '01.9"N 112  '40.7"W
Distance to bird: 10 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon D500 18-400 Tamron lens; Nikon 10x42 Binoculars
Weather: clear, sunny, 40's temps
Light Conditions: bright
Description:        Size of bird: slightly smaller than Hairy woodpecker on same tree, about 20-22 cm
(Description:)       Basic Shape: woodpecker/sapsucker family
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: black bird with white spotting and shoulder stripe, deep red head into breast
(Description:)            Bill Type: woodpecker/sapsucker
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
A black bird with white spotting, vertical white shoulder bars, and red head, into breast which appeared buff (did not get good looks at belly as it clung to tree). It had a slight mustache stripe which was not as substantial as Williamson's, Red-naped, or Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. There was no other white other than a white dot near the eye on the head/neck as in other sapsuckers. The spotting on the back was random and not extensive as in the Red-naped winter, nor was it extensively barred like the Yellow-bellied (or Williamson's female) or all black like the Williamson's. There was no brown, but the head and neck feathers were a rich, deep red, bordering on maroon. It looked very much like the 'daggetti' subcategory of the Red-breasted as seen in the following article on hybridization:
In fact, in looking at that article, although this bird appeared well outside its range, it did not appear to have any characteristics of hybridization as described in the article. From the article: "Race daggetti: White at the base of the bill extends as fairly broad moustachial stripe, occasionally across neck to back; often shows white behind eye, occasionally extending as a short eye-stripe; head and breast paler than ruber, some- times tinged with pale purple; in autumn, red coloration appears duller and darker, but becoming brighter through winter and spring as browner feather-tips wear away. Some black feather-bases often show through on crown and breast, especially when very worn in late summer." This appears to be a description of the bird I saw. I will send photos (5 large files in separate emails to be sure they all arrive).
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior:  clinging to tree about 4-5 feet off ground. Sharing tree with Hairy Woodpecker. I zoomed out a lot of the tree, but it appeared to have old rows of sapsucker holes
Habitat: riverside forest
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
I scoured the guides (Sibley, Merlin, Peterson, BirdsEye), I posted on the ABA What's This Bird FB page (got no consensus), and Googled several sites. After careful consideration of all of the above, and as mentioned above, I rule out Williamson's due to its lack of red on the head and spotting on the back; I rule out Red-naped due to it's more extensive white striping on the face and neck, including the eye stripe, which is only a dot in the bird I saw. Also ruling out Red-naped is the lack of extensive spotting/white markings on the back. The bird I saw had less spotting than any of the other sapsuckers. I rule out Yellow-bellied again on the basis of the extensive white striping on the head, face, and neck of the Yellow-bellied and extensive barring on the back. This bird does not appear to be a hybrid as its characteristics fit a worn, dark red feathered 'daggetti' form.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I live in Maryland, and am a member of the Howard County Bird Club, one of the most active in the country. I go on regular walks with the folks who have been birding for decades. Although my experience is not as extensive, I have been a life-long birder, having started with my father when I was 3 or 4. I am quite familiar with the sapsucker here in the east (we have one!), but also with the myriad of woodpeckers found here.
References consulted: Sibley, Peterson, Macauley for photos, Merlin (Cornell), BirdsEye, several other Google pix, and the article noted above: Sphyrapicus Anxiety IDENTIFYING HYBRID SAPSUCKERS
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Sarah M. Romero
Observer's address: 7481 Broken Staff, Columbia, MD 21045
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 12/18/2017
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: I remain available at the above contact info for further discussion.