Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2018-62

Common name:

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus ruber
Date: 10/27/2018
Time: 11:00 AM
Length of time observed: 10 minutes
Number: 1
Location: Short Creek (northeast of Hildale, UT)
County: Washington
Distance to bird: Varied (as close at 15 feet)
Optical equipment: Nikon 200-500mm lens, Leupold 10X50 binoculars
Weather: Clear, calm
Light Conditions: Mostly shade
Description:        Size of bird: About 8 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Woodpecker-shape (see photos)
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black, gray, red, white
(Description:)            Bill Type: Straight, woodpecker-like
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Sapsucker with extensively red crown, forehead, and throat. Red also extends onto nape and breast, with some red feathers connecting the red crown to the red throat behind the eye. A black stripe starts in front of the eye and extends to nape. A small black patch also appears on the back of the bird's head. Small white patch above the eye, white malar stripe.

Mostly dark back, with pale splotches that extend upwards to nape. Dark wingtips with small white bands. Inner part of upper-tail appeared banded black and white. Outer tail appeared entirely black.

Underside not seen well. What was visible on the underside was pale gray with the exception of red on the breast.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Silent
Behavior: Drumming on Russian olive trunk
Habitat: Mixed woodlands near a riparian zone. Varied vegetation, which included oak, Russian olive, pinyon/juniper, cottonwoods, and box elder.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Red-naped sapsucker X red-breasted sapsucker hybrid: I strongly considered this possibility. After reading some articles on hybrid sapsuckers, many referenced the black breast shield as a red-naped feature that often shows up (at least partially) when these two species hyrbridize. I see no hint of this feature in the bird I observed. I am slightly more concerned about the black in the back of the head of this individual. However, I checked photos of the red-breasted sapsucker I observed in Utah previously (UBRC 2015-01) and some black was present in this same area (to a lesser extent). I think that this could be a normal feature that presents itself in daggetti ssp. Besides that feature, I think my bird looks very similar to the "Adult Female Southern" red-breasted sapsucker illustration in Sibley's Western Field Guide.

Red-naped sapsucker and yellow-bellied sapsucker: The bird I observed had extensive red on its head which extended onto the nape and breast. This extent of red would not be present on either of these species. The individual observed also lacked black in the breast, which would be present on red-naped and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
 I have observed 3 or 4 previous red-breasted sapsuckers, including one previously in Utah (see UBRC 2015-01).
Most recently I observed 2 or 3 red-breasted sapsuckers on a recent trip to Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Red-naped sapsucker: many previous observations.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker: very limited experience.

Red-naped X red-breasted hybrid: I have observed some individuals that I suspected hybridization, but these showed predominant features of a red-naped.
References consulted: Sibley Western Field Guide

Online sapsucker hybrid write-ups:
Description from: From memory
From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Mike Schijf
Observer's address: 354 Vermillion Ave
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: My girlfriend may have briefly observed the bird but she is not a birder.
Date prepared: 11/01/2018
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: There was a red-naped sapsucker in the exact same spot where this bird was observed (same Russian olive, same trunk) several hours later in the day.