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Red Breasted Sapsucker


My boys, Robert and Forrest, and l have been chasing these birds all spring in an effort to get video. In the process we have found an area where they are nesting, we hope to get a video of the young soon.

The red-breasted sapsucker is native to the coastal mountains of western North America, dwelling in mixed forests from Alaska to Mexico. Vancouver Island has a large stable population. Migration is very limited, with some movement to the BC interior and Alaska during the breeding season, and with some southward shift from its year-round range in BC, and the northern US west coast, to California and Mexico.

Red Breasted Sapsucker, Vancouver Island, BCSapsuckers have evolved a different way of food gathering. Instead of boring into the wood for insects and their larvae. They make shallow almost square holes in the soft bark of trees, which ooze sap that these birds feed on. Although the main food source for these birds is tree sap. They also eat some insects and fruit. They take more insects during the nesting season, and they feed insects to their young during this time.

Juvenile red Breasted Sapsucker, Vancouver Island, BC
Juvenile red Breasted Sapsucker, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Not very much is known about the nesting habits of the Red-Breasted Sapsucker. They do form monogamous pairs, and both will work at excavating the nest cavity. Nest holes are usually created in deciduous trees, such as alder, cottonwood, or maple, but they may also be in fir trees or other conifers. The nest is often high, 15 to 20 meters off the ground. Both parents help incubate the 5 to 6 eggs for about 12 days. Both feed the young, which leave the nest in about 30 days. The young are still dependent on the parents for 10 to 15 days or longer. Red-Breasted Sapsuckers typically raise only one brood each year.

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